GTE Northwest issued an apology Friday for breaking a gas line that caused the evacuation of hundreds of Coeur d’Alene residents earlier this week.
On Wednesday, phone company workers were using a backhoe to dig in the area of Prairie Avenue and Franklin Street when they accidentally hit one of Washington Water Power’s 4-inch gas lines.
As the volatile gas floated through the air, Kootenai County emergency workers evacuated hundreds of employees from surrounding businesses along with 15 schoolchildren in a nearby church. No one was injured and the gas line was closed off within a half-hour.
We “apologize to all members of the public who were inconvenienced by the accident,” GTE officials said in a statement released Friday.
According to state law, those planning to dig must check to make sure no underground utilities are in the area.
GTE officials had originally said that the “Call Before You Dig” notification line and WWP had not told them of the gas line in the area.
However, officials with WWP, “Call Before You Dig” and the Northwest Utility Inc. said they did properly notify GTE.
GTE was searching for a damaged cable on Wednesday when they called the “Call Before You Dig” line. Officials there notified Northwest Utility, which then came to the site and checked the area for gas lines, said Dana Anderson, spokeswoman for WWP.
Northwest Utility told GTE there were no gas lines in the area they had asked to dig in. However, when GTE could not find its cable in that area, they moved to another area to look for it and started digging without first checking with Northwest Utility, Anderson said.
That’s when the gas line was hit.
GTE officials said they had meant to have both areas checked for gas lines but through a communication error only had the first area checked.
GTE officials said they will pay for the damages and have apologized to WWP and the Password company that operates “Call Before You Dig.”
Anderson estimates the costs to be about $400.