State issues new pipeline regulations to prevent house explosionsby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — State officials issued new requirements for installing gas lines Monday, after a St. Paul home exploded due to damaged pipes.
Officials with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said the new rules are designed to prevent underground gas pipelines from intersecting and puncturing privately owned sewer pipes.
Jerry Rosendahl, the department's director, said Minnesota is the first state to issue rules banning the installation method known as cross-boring. The state will impose fines and citations on pipe installers who violate the regulations.
But Rosendahl said homeowners who already have gas lines in their neighborhoods will ultimately be responsible for their own safety.
"They could call for a locate. They could call the utility company and ask them to verify whether or not their gas lines were put in with trenchless excavation or by open trenches," said Rosendahl. "In other words, the homeowner making sure as best they can that their situation is not one to be concerned with."
Officials said they hope to avoid situations like the February explosion and fire that destroyed a St. Paul home.
In that incident, a drilling crew had installed a gas line from the street to the Villard Avenue house over a decade ago. The gas line passed right through a sewer pipe. When a drain cleaner hit the line this winter, gas rushed through the sewer into the basement, and the house exploded. No one was injured, but the house was leveled.
The rules go into effect today, but state officials had already told pipeline operators about the changes last month. The new regulations also require operators to use an internal camera to inspect any potentially intersecting sewer lines by June 1.
Xcel Energy, owner of the Villard Avenue gas pipeline, has said that it will respond to all requests by homeowners and businesses to inspect sewer lines within the company's pipeline range.
The state says it knows of at least 155 instances of gas lines in private sewers, and that there are likely more that haven't been found yet.