Pipeline safety starts with BC One Call and safe excavation practices

Fewer line hits in 2009, but 99 per cent of these incidents were still preventable

SURREY, BC, May 3 /CNW/ - It was a chilly February morning in Kelowna when a road construction crew on Highway 33 damaged a Terasen Gas natural gas pipeline. Terasen Gas crews responded quickly, safely stopping the flow of gas, but almost 900 customers in the area had to go without natural gas service until repairs could be completed. This incident, and many others, could have been avoided had safe excavation practices been followed as set out in provincial regulations.

"There has been a 15 per cent decrease in construction-related damages to Terasen Gas' pipelines since 2008 and damage prevention programs have helped increase overall calls to BC One Call by 18 per cent," said Dwain Bell, Vice President of Distribution, Terasen Gas. "However, about 1,400 gas lines were still damaged last year. Ninety-nine per cent of these incidents could have been prevented had the excavator called BC One Call for the location of gas lines and followed safe excavation practices by hand digging to expose the pipeline. It is important to follow provincial excavation regulations, to ensure both public safety and the safety of those working around underground utilities."

Provincial regulations require excavators to obtain information on the location of underground natural gas and propane lines where digging is planned. Excavators are then advised to hand dig to expose buried gas lines prior to using any mechanical excavation equipment like an auger or backhoe.

The public is strongly urged to follow these steps to stay safe:

1.  Call BC One Call toll-free at 1-800-474-6886 (or *6886 from any
        cell phone) to request the location of buried gas lines and other
        utilities at least two business days before starting excavation. This
        is a requirement of Terasen Gas and provincial gas safety
        regulations. BC One Call will contact its members with underground
        facilities in the excavation area, which will then provide the caller
        with the requested information.
    2.  Have all location information on site during the excavation.
    3.  Use the gas line information to locate and mark lines with paint or
        stakes and maintain them until digging is underway.
    4.  HAND DIG FIRST to expose gas lines before using mechanical equipment.

Information on the location of underground gas lines is provided free of charge. If gas lines still cannot be found after calling BC One Call and digging by hand, the public is encouraged to call Terasen Gas at 1-888-822-6555 for assistance.

"We are committed to helping British Columbians work as safely as possible. As such, we encourage all contractors to call BC One Call and take programs such as the 'Dig Safe BC!' workshops, which are supported by Terasen Gas and other utilities. Programs like these are great ways to examine and learn about diligent excavation practices, and we are excited to have seen over 500 contractors province-wide attend these valuable sessions," said Gary Tremblay, Executive Director, BC One Call.

Terasen Gas provides safety regulators like the BC Safety Authority and WorkSafe BC with findings from pipeline damages. Terasen Gas also uses that information to remind the public to use BC One Call. As a founding member of the Common Ground Alliance, Terasen Gas also raises awareness about safe excavation practices, in line with other underground utilities and services such as telephone, cable, and sewage. For more information on pipeline safety and safe excavation practices, please visit terasengas.com or bconecall.bc.ca.

Terasen Gas is mainly composed of the operations of Terasen Gas Inc. and Terasen Gas (Vancouver Island) Inc., both indirect wholly owned subsidiaries of Fortis Inc. Fortis Inc., the largest investor-owned distribution utility in Canada, serves approximately 2,100,000 gas and electric customers and has total assets exceeding $12 billion. Its regulated holdings include Terasen Gas and electric utilities in five Canadian provinces and three Caribbean countries. Fortis Inc. owns non-regulated hydroelectric generation assets across Canada and in Belize and upper New York State. It also owns hotels and commercial real estate in Canada. Fortis Inc. shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and trade under the symbol FTS. Additional information can be accessed at www.fortisinc.com or www.sedar.com

For further information: Media Contacts: Marcus Wong, Corporate Communications Manager, Terasen Gas, Phone: (778) 571-3263, Email: marcus.wong@terasengas.com, Follow us at: www.twitter.com/terasengas; Gary Tremblay, Executive Director, BC One Call Ltd., Office: (250) 537-1559, Cell: (604) 230-6122