The cure for gas leaks is simpler than many think

By Valencia

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Gas leaks seemed to pop up across the Lowcountry in the month of December. The cause wasn't aging infrastructure. Instead SCE&G says it was third party digging.

"A lot of those are due to road construction, other construction going on in the area," said Kim Asbill, public affairs official for the SCANA Corporation and SCE&G.

In 2012, SCE&G reported 954 gas leaks in areas across the state excluding the Upstate.{} While in December there were 51 gas leaks, July 2012 was the month with the highest number of incidents at 110.

Asbill says third party digging has a direct cause.

"People are not calling to locate the lines before they begin digging," she said.

The simple solution is dialing 811.

"It's designed for both residents and people doing construction work out on the roads," said Asbill. "Basically what it does is allows you to know where the lines are so you don't dig and you don't hit the pipeline."

The number connects home, business or construction owners to a 24-hour dispatch service that combats gas leaks before they happen.

"We dispatch our technicians to the location within 72 hours, whether it be a house or a business. They arrive at the location, review prints, survey the site," said Matt Rodgers, the manager of UtiliQuest.

UtilitQuest locates underground utilities like gas lines, phone lines and electric lines.

Mostly, the company marks lines just after the completion of a building process. However, gas leaks are caused when a lot of land is unmarked and pipes are damaged during digging.

"If you hit in the wrong way, it can explode. One little spark can ignite that gas and cause explosions, serious injury, burns to people," said Rodgers.

UtiliQuest services are free to the public. Once a survey of land is complete, each underground pipe is marked with a flag or spray symbol.

The flags and symbols are color coded.

"Red for gas, yellow electric, orange for communications, green for sewer, blue for water," said Rodgers.

If you plan to garden or do any sort of underground construction, it is recommended that you dial 811 three days before you begin your project.