Gas Leak: TECO says contractor did not confirm digging site

On Saturday, a natural gas leak shut down a stretch of U.S. 41, forcing evacuation of businesses, turning off their gas and barring people from their homes for several hours. The company that owns the line said the construction contractor working a site near its line did not follow protocols.

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TECO Energy confirmed Monday the gas leak happened in south Fort Myers because the construction crew working the site did not confirm the location before digging.

“They’re talking natural gas,” Joan Gunderman said. “First thing that goes in your mind — explosion.”

When asked if it could have been avoided, TECO said possibly. It also added the construction crew is not affiliated with it company.

“It brought back sort of the same type of anxiety I had when the Hurricane Irma was about,” Jim Gunderman said.

Companies are expected to call 811 to find out where lines exist in order to avoid them. The 811 number applies to everyone, even if you’re digging in your own yard. We reached out to the construction company but have not heard back from them.

“We maintain detailed maps of our equipment, but we do not share them publicly for safety purposes,” TECO spokesperson Cherie Jacobs sent in an email. “Excavators are required to call 811, which provides all the information in the field for crews to excavate safely.”

Jacobs also said the contractor did not have a current 811 ticket. They called TECO in February, and the ticket was valid for 30 days and expired in mid-March.

“It definitely kind of stinks because we’re already slow this time of year,” said Amber Utter of Skip One 41. “And then when something like that happens, it takes more of our business away.”

TECO said it’s not responsible for business lost but will investigate any claims they get.

“They seem to be very timely and communicative with everything,” Utter said.

 

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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