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April 21, 2016

Summit faces $250K fine for potentially 'catastrophic' February gas leak

Summit Natural Gas is facing a $250,000 fine from the Maine Public Utilities Commission following an underground gas leak in February that forced the evacuation of several buildings at a Western Avenue shopping plaza in Augusta — in an incident gas safety staff at the commission said could have been "catastrophic."

The Kennebec Journal reports that the origin of the gas leak was a 2-inch gas main that had been installed by the contracted company for the project, ElectriCom Utility Construction, using trenchless technology in November 2014. The installation caused damage to underground conduits resulting in arcing from the power lines burning a hole through the gas line, in turn causing the leak.

Lizzy Reinholt, a spokeswoman for Summit, told the Bangor Daily News that although the utility company believes the Augusta leak is an isolated incident, the company has begun an internal review of the March leak and installations done in 2013 and 2014 by ElectriCom.

"Had the gas continued its migration, and entered a nearby building — for example, the Applebee's restaurant — and ignited, the resulting damage could have been catastrophic and caused multiple fatalities," according to the PUC's notice of probable violation.

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