Atmos meeting with Public Works to try and avoid gas line breaks

By Presley Fowler, Reporter

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – With recent reports of natural gas line breaks like the one we saw Tuesday in downtown Lubbock, we wanted to find out why these leaks occur and how dangerous they can be if not properly responded to.

Anytime you have plans that require digging outside, you are supposed to call 811.

Professionals will locate underground lines, and yellow warning flags will be placed in the area where a buried gas line is located.

“You need to allow 72 hours for the pipelines underground to be marked, and then that way you will be able to excavate without fear of hitting a pipeline. The rule is you have to allow 18 inches on each side of the flag and not dig in that 36 inch radius,” Atmos Energy Manager of Public Affairs Marinda Heinrich said.

Heinrich says calling 811 goes for the city as well. She says Atmos Energy and the city have an upcoming meeting to come up with a plan to work together more efficiently on this.

City of Lubbock utility crews that regularly have to dig underground go through extensive training and have safety meetings every two weeks, according to Public Works Superintendent Mike Gilliland.

But in an effort to continue improving safety practices, Atmos Energy and crews from the Public Works department will meet on July 31st.

“I’m hoping we can come up with a strategy between the two of us, a good plan to put into place. And maybe that involves pothole digging, and maybe that involves having a spotter when you’ve got someone on a back hoe to be, you know, the eyes on the ground looking. And if you have one of these flags in the ground maybe that strategy should be if you are worried about hitting something, you may want to call Atmos Energy and we can always send one of our guys out there to be present as well, so that he can help you avoid those pipelines,” Heinrich said. “Our ultimate goal is the safety of our citizens and our system. And so if we can together hand in hand with the City of Lubbock to accomplish that, that just makes it that much better.”

In addition to the July 31st meeting, Heinrich says Atmos Energy is also hosting a mock line break event in October.

This event is open to any local contractors or maintenance workers to attend.

The focus will be ways to avoid hitting a pipeline, what markings look like if the line is in an area where a flag can’t be placed in the ground and what to do if they do hit a line.

For more information on that event, you can visit and click on “Upcoming Events”.

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