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Canton homes evacuated, traffic diverted because of natural gas leak

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CANTON — A punctured natural gas line along East Main Street in the village caused a leak that forced residents of three dozen homes to evacuate for more than four hours Monday evening.

Canton volunteer firefighters and Enbridge Energy Services employees investigated the overwhelming smell of gas at 58 E. Main St., where Fire Chief Robert M. Crowe said a stake in the front yard punctured a gas line.

It was repaired Monday evening, but not before traffic during the heavy evening commute on Route 11 had to be detoured.

Chief Crowe said the smell of gas had been reported at approximately 4 p.m. Monday. Homes on East Main Street from Stiles Avenue to Hillside Road were evacuated, as were homes on Pleasant Street, Crescent Street and East Drive.

Gas service was shut off at 12 homes, and 15 additional homes were evacuated as a precaution, Chief Crowe said. No injuries or property damage resulted.

Crews from Luck Bros. Inc., Plattsburgh, had driven a survey stake into the ground that broke the line, Chief Crowe said.

“As far as I understand, (the stakes) were set today as part of the construction project by Luck Bros.,” Chief Crowe said. “They are the general contractors for the project run by the state Department of Transportation.”

DOT Project Engineer Thomas A. Maroun said the crew was replacing metal property pins and this was one of six.

“It was a metal bar that identifies the property lines. They record all the property pins before they start the job,” Mr. Maroun said. “One of them was at the same location as a gas service line going into one of the houses.”

It is unclear how long gas has been leaking or when the line was punctured, Chief Crowe said. First responders used a fan and generator to ventilate the sewer lines in the area.

First responders used a reverse 911 system through the county, which allowed them to call residents in a geographic area to let them know what is going on, the chief said.

Officials from DOT created a detour identical to the route used during the summer road work, diverting traffic during the heavy evening commute. Drivers heading into Canton were directed around the north end of the village via Route 310, State Street and Riverside Drive.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes, gas was turned back on and East Main Street was reopened at approximately 8:30 p.m., Chief Crowe said.

Canton village police, St. Lawrence University Security, Canton Village Department of Public Works and the Pyrites, Morley and Potsdam, West Potsdam and Rensselaer Falls fire departments are also on the scene.

Chief Crowe said a call about a second possible gas leak at 49 W. Main St., which he received during the evacuation of the homes, was a false alarm.

This is the second time crews from the construction company caused a gas leak in that area since the summer. Road construction workers cut through a natural gas line in June near the intersection of East Main Street and Hillside Drive, forcing the evacuation of several homes and Vilas Hall at St. Lawrence University.

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