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ENSTAR: Contractor Caused Wasilla Gas Line Breach

Published On: Aug 12 2014 10:04:00 AM AKDT

A major gas line break at a Wasilla shopping area, which briefly had Mat-Su Borough authorities contemplating a closure of the Parks Highway and an evacuation of the immediate area, was caused by a contractor's construction work.

Clint Vardeman, deputy director of Mat-Su Emergency Services, says the break was reported at North Lucus Road and the Parks Highway, near both Spenard Builders Supply and the Westside Center, at 9:29 a.m. Initial responders arrived at 9:35 a.m.

Initial responders had considered evacuating everyone within a quarter-mile of the shopping center, but work by natural gas crews quickly helped secure the leak.

“ENSTAR is on scene; several police units are on scene,” Vardeman said. "ENSTAR has isolated the break on either side, so the evacuation has been called off.”

John Sims, a spokesperson with ENSTAR, characterized Tuesday's incident as a "third-party breach" caused by activity outside the company or customer's control. He didn't name the contractor involved in the incident.

"Someone was doing construction there and broke the line," Sims said. "ENSTAR had containment within a matter of minutes."

Sims says anyone planning to conduct digging operations -- particularly construction firms -- should call 811 to determine whether the area is safe before doing so.

"If you have any concerns, consider hand-digging around the area," Sims said. "This was a contractor, though, so this wasn't your garden-variety digging."

Editor's note: An initial misspelling of Lucus Road has been corrected.