Gas line ruptures at construction site

By Tom Collins
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 13, 1996

A gas line was broken yesterday at the Environmental and Natural Resources Building construction site on the southwest side of campus, apparently because the construction company had not had gas lines in the area marked.

Shortly after noon, the University of Arizona Police Department and the Tucson Fire Department responded and closed off street traffic surrounding the area.

At 12:40 p.m., Southwest Gas Corp. was notified of the break, which occurred near Zachary's Pizza, 1019 E. Sixth St.

"Somebody plowed into a line with a piece of equipment," said Libby Howell, spokeswoman for Southwest Gas.

The restaurant's gas line was severed, Howell said.

Southwest Gas ordered the evacuation of the site and Zachary's, Howell said. She said the broken line was shut off at 1:35 p.m. and service re-established to the restaurant 10 minutes later.

State law requires a construction operation to have its sites "blue-staked," before it does any digging, Howell said. The staking lets equipment operators know where utility lines are located, Howell said.

McCarthy Construction, the contractor at the site, had not had it blue-staked, Howell said.

"Our always, always rule is 'don't dig without blue staking,'" said Gerry Murphy, a McCarthy spokesman.

Murphy said the line break was an accident. He said an employee had started digging without making sure the area was safe.

"People do make errors. That's what happened," Murphy said. He said it was McCarthy employees who called 911.

Howell said McCarthy Construction will have to reimburse Southwest Gas for the expense of responding to and fixing the problem.

On July 25, a Gravel Express employee caused a gas leak at the same site. At that time, the employee told university police that the area was not blue staked.