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ConsumerWatch: Lafayette Homeowner Uncovers Pipeline Problem

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(CBS)

(CBS)

LAFAYETTE (CBS 5) — Last year’s San Bruno pipeline explosion created plenty  of worry over leaking gas lines. For one Lafayette homeowner, those concerns became reality.

Robert Meinbress accidentally severed a gas service line while doing some yard work. The line was buried just four inches below the surface.

Meinbress ruptured the line back in April while rototilling his property to reduce his fire risk. He called PG&E, which promptly sent a crew over to shut off the leaking gas. It also sent Meinbress a $2,700 bill for the repairs.

PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian told CBS 5 Consumerwatch that Meinbress should have called 811, a hotline to help homeowners locate underground pipeline locations. “These accidents are entirely avoidable,” Sarkissian said.

But Meinbress argued that the line should have been buried much farther down. “Nothing should be that close. It’s like a landmine in your backyard,” he said.

State regulations require underground pipes be buried at least twelve to eighteen inches under the surface. PG&E’s Sarkissian said the pipe was installed at the proper depth, but time and erosion reduced the amount of ground cover.

Earlier this week, PG&E crews deepened the trench at Meinbress’ home, re-laid the lines and dropped the charges for the repairs. But Meinbress’ case is the exception. The California Public Utilities Commission said homeowners are expected to pay for the repair if they accidentally damage utility lines on their property.

If you are planning on digging or doing any underground work in your yard, you are asked to call 811 or go to http://www.call811.com/.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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