Up to 70 per cent of gas line hits in BC would be prevented by phoning BC One Call



    SURREY, BC, March 12 /CNW/ - Classes were well underway at the Broadway
Campus of Vancouver Community College one morning last month, when more than
3,000 students were told to evacuate because an excavator had struck an
underground natural gas pipeline.
    The needed repairs meant students and staff lost most of the school day
and 77 Terasen Gas customers had their service temporarily interrupted.
However, if excavators had used safe excavation practices as set out by B.C.
provincial safety regulations - including the practice of hand digging within
one meter of the gas line - this incident would not have happened.
    "Unfortunately the Vancouver Community College incident is not isolated.
In 2007, Terasen Gas  experienced 1,739 incidents affecting our pipeline
system and totalling more than $1.3 million in repairs," said Dwain Bell,
Terasen Gas, vice president of distribution. "Terasen Gas tracks and reviews
every one of these incidents to better understand the cause of system damage.
Each year we provide the findings to our safety regulators and use the
information to plan and implement our public awareness activities encouraging
safe excavation practices and reminding people to call BC One Call. Callers
not only receive gas line locate information, but also underground
infrastructure information of all BC One Call members for their dig area."
    Each time a gas line is hit, Terasen Gas arrives on site to ensure public
safety and make repairs. Of the hit lines we responded to last year:

    
    -   70 per cent happened because people failed to call BC One Call for
        gas line information
    -   20 per cent did call and had the location information for a gas line,
        but failed to use safe excavation practices such as hand digging
    -   10 per cent called, had location information and hand dug, but other
        construction activity resulted in damage
    -   less than one per cent of incidents occurred because of incorrect gas
        line location information
    

    As well, Terasen Gas responded to 250 emergency calls province-wide that
resulted from leaks to a home or business owners' piping, car accidents, storm
damage or fire.
    The rise in excavation-related incidents from 2006 to 2007 can be
attributed to an increase in construction activity. This is partly measured by
Terasen Gas' new service installations and housing starts but the cause of
incidents has not changed.
    "We've long supported BC One Call," said Bell. "As a founding member of
the Common Ground Alliance, we work with other members to ensure the digging
community uses the best practices when digging around all underground
utilities."
    Being safe means getting underground gas line information at least three
days before digging. Call BC One Call at 1-800-474-6886 or (*)6886 on your
cellular. BC One Call will contact all member organizations with underground
utilities, including Terasen Gas, in the dig area. Call at lease three
business days in advance. This is a requirement of provincial gas safety
regulations. The call and the information are free.
    Once you have the location information, keep it on site during
excavation. Use the information to locate the gas line and then hand dig to
expose the line before using any mechanical equipment. If you hand dig and
can't find the buried gas line, or need further clarification, call Terasen
Gas at 1-888-822-6555.
    So always Call Before You Dig to avoid the dangers and costs of hitting
an underground line. For more information, visit www.terasengas.com or visit
www.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 two million gas and electric customers and has more than
$10 billion of assets. 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
http://www.fortisinc.com/ or http://www.sedar.com/.

    Backgrounder with Vancouver Island regional information attached.


    
                       Vancouver Island system damage
    

    In 2007 throughout Vancouver Island, Terasen Gas experienced
268 incidents of damage to our system, as compared to the 243 incidents in
2006. The increase in damages can be attributed to an increase in construction
activity, which can be partially measured by the increase in housing starts
for Vancouver Island.

    Capital Regional District

    When we break out statistics from Vancouver Island as a whole, the
Capital Regional District actually saw a decrease in the number of excavation
damages - 93 in 2007 over 97 which occurred in 2006. This decrease occurred
despite an increase in construction activity. It can also be attributed to
greater awareness of excavator responsibility, as is reflected by a number of
requests from municipalities for locate and/or excavator safety training
sessions from Terasen Gas.

    
    Of the 93 damages in 2007:
    -   58 per cent happened because people failed to call BC One Call for
        gas line information
    -   20 per cent did call and had the location information, but failed to
        use safe excavation practices such as hand digging
    -   22 per cent called, had location information and hand dug, but other
        construction activity resulted in damage
    -   less than one per cent was due to incorrect gas line location
        information

    North Island region

    The North Island region, which includes Nanaimo, Courtenay, Parksville,
Powell River, Sechelt, Campbell River, Port Alberni, Comox Valley and Duncan,
saw an increase in excavation damages to 175 in 2007 over 146 which occurred
in 2006. The increase can be attributed to:

    -   a relatively greater increase in construction activity in the North
        Island than the CRD
    -   a broader geographic area with a greater number of excavators
    -   less awareness of excavator responsibility, and
    -   fewer requests for training

    Of the 175 damages in 2007:
    -   56 per cent happened because people failed to call BC One Call for
        gas line information
    -   29 per cent did call and had the location information, but failed to
        use safe excavation practices such as hand digging
    -   15 per cent called, had location information and hand dug, but other
        construction activity resulted in damage
    -   less than one per cent was due to incorrect gas line location
        information
    

    Change in line locate process

    Since January 2006, Terasen Gas has worked with Vancouver Island/Sunshine
Coast municipalities and contractors regarding our change in line marking
practice to providing locate information. This process has been in place
throughout the rest of the province for many years. Municipalities in BC's
Lower Mainland have always worked from maps to locate natural gas distribution
lines.
    The difference in statistical data, with respect to damages, between the
mainland and Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast appears to reflect a gap
in excavator awareness of safe excavating procedures. Terasen Gas offers this
training on a regular basis to the excavating community and particularly
municipal operations staff.
    In 2007, Terasen Gas physically marked 792 buried gas lines on Vancouver
Island. The company performs physical locations (marking the gas line
location) for distribution lines in the following circumstances:

    
    -   if the caller expresses uncertainty with the maps provided
    -   the excavator has been unsuccessful in locating the natural gas line
        by hand digging
    -   an emergency situation
    

    If digging is planned near our large transmission lines, Terasen Gas will
locate the line and remain on site during the excavation.
    Terasen Gas supports providing locate information as a best practice that
protects worker and public safety. Our practice mirrors the policy in place
for telephone, cable, electrical and municipal services such as sewage and
water locates in many areas.





For further information:

For further information: Media contact: Joyce Wagenaar, Corporate
Communications Manager, Phone: (604) 592-7682, E-mail:
joyce.wagenaar@terasengas.com; BC One Call contact: Gary Tremblay, Executive
Director, Phone: (604) 230-6122

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