GOLD HILL — The city could face a fine and repair costs after an accident on Wednesday left residents without gas and water for several hours.
City of Gold Hill public works officials struck a large gas line while making a repair call for a broken water line. Gas company officials said it appears the city workers failed to follow required protocol for digging near natural gas lines.
Contacted by the Mail Tribune, Avista officials said required calls to the state "Call Before You Dig" hotline were not made, and that a fine and repair costs would be determined after investigation of the incident.
"Our records do not indicate there was a call for a locate on that date," said Avista communications manager Debbie Simock, noting that having both a water and gas line broken made for "a pretty complicated situation," with gas shutoff ultimately taking three hours.
Simock said all instances of broken gas lines are investigated to determine fault.
"What we do in all situations is we investigate what happened and then make determination on any fines based on cost to repair the line and any natural gas that was lost," she said.
"Regardless of whether a homeowner is planting shrubs in their yard or building a deck or replacing a yard or doing construction, call 811 before starting any project that involves digging. In addition to underground gas lines, there are other utility lines in that same trench, and calling can help prevent injury, damage and service disruptions."
In addition to nonemergency gas locates, which take up to two days, help desk operators for the "Call Before You Dig" hotline can provide emergency locates during time-sensitive incidents such as broken water lines.
Calls to city hall and public works were not answered Friday. Fire District No. 3 officials said water and gas line repairs were handled without incident or risk to public safety.
Buffy Pollock is a writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.