From fumes to fixed: Damaged pipeline leads to gas leak in New England

An MDU worker puts the final repairs to a damaged pipeline in New England, ND. (Photo by Nathanial A. Barrera/ the Dickinson Press)

The smell of gas filled the air at the corner of Fifth Street and Main in New England, N.D., following a subsurface boring incident on Wednesday, Dec. 4.

Representatives of the Hettinger County Sheriff’s Department, New England Rural Department and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. assessed the scene. Employees of Fitterer Oil and Express Stop, the filling stations involved in the gas leak, were evacuated and the damaged pipeline was repaired within hours, but not without a lingering scent of fumes.

“They evacuated the two businesses involved, because they were boring — drilling — underneath the street from one to the other and they subsequently hit the gas line,” Hettinger County Emergency Services Manager Tracy Kruger told the Press. “Then it kind of extended as the incident went on.”

The safety of New England’s residents was a top priority for all parties involved in the breech’s repair as illustrated in a Facebook post by New England Fire and Rescue: “If you are in a three to four block radius of 5th St and Main, please shelter in a place if you are able,” the online statement urged. “If you are feeling ill effects from the leak, please evacuate and seek medical attention.”

“Firefighters also went down the closest streets to check on the residents,” Kruger added.


The Dakota Women's Correctional and Rehabilitation Center, which is located only a few blocks from the leak, was not harmed.

“Wind was coming out of the southwest to the northeast,” Kruger said of the women’s prison.
“The plume was heading in the opposite direction so that area was not affected.”

City and county officials were upset by some motorists’ behavior Wednesday, which they said hindered response.

“Stay away,” the Fire Chief Brad Rustan replied when asked how locals should react to a situation like Wednesday’s. “Don’t jump the curb, get on the sidewalk and go around us with our emergency lights on and us banging on your windows. I don’t get it.”

Chief Deputy Kyle Christenson of the Hettinger County Sheriff’s Office shared a similar sentiment.

“If there’s a roadblock, maybe stay away,” Christenson said. “Try to find another way around to where you’re going and if there’s a roadblock on that side too, maybe you should just stay out of it.”

Whatever the intentions of disorderly motorists, the aforementioned Facebook post is clear in pointing out that “failure to (stay from the area) is hindering the response,” a fact that, according to the chief deputy, will not go without castigation by the area’s law enforcement officials.

“I’m going to be checking out some people that were apparently driving around (the barricades),” Christenson said. “They had this whole place blocked off and people were driving around it. They’ve got some names and license plates for me to follow up on.”


Emergency officials convened at a gas leak in New England, ND. (Photo by Nathanial A. Barrera/ The Dickinson Press)

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