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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2004

Probe to find fault for gas-line break

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Two yellow lines - one marked "2.5" and the other marked "6" - adorned Melissa Crockett's driveway yesterday, showing where gas pipes along the street were supposed to be.

What neither of the yellow lines did was point toward the sloppily filled-in hole next to the curb in front of her house at 2802 Northwood Ave., where a city water crew hit a gas line Tuesday afternoon, causing a rupture that forced the evacuations of her home and others nearby for three hours.

The incident also left Ms. Crockett's house and yard, and part of a property next door, coated in a fine, foul-smelling mud that was ejected from the hole by the high-pressure gas and then sprayed by the force of wind and firefighters' water.

Columbia Gas said yesterday it was starting an investigation into why the six-inch line feeding Toledo Hospital was hit.

"We are sorting out the details of what actually happened," spokesman Steve Jablonski said. "Was the pipe marked? Were the markings followed?"

Until that inquiry is complete, he said, it would be improper to speculate on responsibility for the mishap. "It could be a matter of days, or it could be a matter of a couple of weeks," depending on how complicated it is, Mr. Jablonski said.

City officials at the scene pinned blame on the utility, and the yellow paint didn't appear to argue with them.

Ms. Crockett said yesterday she is anxious to see how complete a clean-up is done on her property, because the evacuation left no time even to close windows. That allowed the mud-laden spray, perfumed with a rotten-eggs odor agent from the gas, to blow right in.

"I've got bedding that really stinks," she said yesterday. "We had to sleep someplace else [Tuesday] night. It's been a terrible inconvenience to my family."

And outdoors, rain overnight did little to wash away the grime from her lawn and plants.

Mr. Jablonski said Columbia contacted Ms. Crockett and has made a claim with its insurance carrier for cleaning up her property and her neighbor's. If responsibility is found later to lie elsewhere, he said, that will be resolved at that time.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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