Updated: Breckenridge gas leak closes businesses, block of Main Street | SummitDaily.com

Updated: Breckenridge gas leak closes businesses, block of Main Street

Alli Langley
alangley@summitdaily.com

UPDATE, 1 p.m. Wednesday: Xcel Energy continues Wednesday to address issues caused by a gas leak discovered Sunday, Jan. 4., on Main Street in Breckenridge.

Late Monday, the utility discovered pockets of natural gas had permeated the ground around the capped-off leak.

The company released a written statement through the town of Breckenridge Tuesday around 7:30 p.m.

"Since Sunday, Xcel Energy has brought in five additional natural gas crews for restoration efforts and to continue to monitor the situation; most remain on site. In addition, we have equipment on site to remove the residual gas, including a vacuum truck and two new air movers. We are using local contractors to dig through the frozen tundra in locations we believe can alleviate the buildup of natural gas underground. Industry and company standards in such situations as this require us to follow strict procedures that ensure the safety of the public. We appreciate your patience during this time, and will continue do all that we can to remedy the situation and make it safe for all of you."

UPDATE, 10 a.m. Tuesday: A portion of the 300 block of North Main Street reopened Tuesday morning to both pedestrians and vehicles from Watson Avenue to 305 N. Main St.

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Vertical Runner, Daylight Donuts, Subway and Blue River Bistro are open and accessible from the street. Elevation Sports, Allied Chiropractic, Great Western Lodging, Arapahoe Architects and Willis & Associates are open and accessible through the alley.

Xcel Energy has been addressing natural gas levels with an extraction machine since 11 p.m. Monday.

Xcel Energy crews capped off a section of an underground natural gas pipe in Breckenridge Monday that caused evacuations and closed a section of Main Street for more than 24 hours.

"Usually we're able to get down to our line very quickly, within 10 to 15 minutes," said Gabriel Romero, Xcel Energy spokesman. Crews had to dig through frozen ground which made the excavation and inspection of sections of pipe take up to four to five hours.

By around 4:30 p.m. the utility company capped off the leaky section in front of the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District station at 316 N. Main St.

Xcel didn't know the cause of the leak Monday, said Mark Stutz, another spokesman, but similar situations are typically caused by ground shifting or surface activity.

Because the odorless, colorless natural gas is extremely flammable, unpleasant-smelling chemicals called mercaptans, or thiols, are added to aid in the rapid detection of leaks.

Though Stutz said the Breckenridge leak didn't pose a public hazard, he added, "It's certainly a situation that you want to take care of and not let things get out of control."

Kim Dykstra, spokeswoman for the town of Breckenridge, said crews hoped to finish filling three large holes in the street and more bores in the sidewalk so they could reopen the road sometime Monday evening.

Then Tuesday, that block of Main will be closed intermittently as workers pave the street, she said. Town officials had yet to discuss with Xcel how much the incident cost or how the cost would be covered.

Paragon Lodging first reported the possible leak to Xcel, Dykstra said. Then the utility company notified Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District of the leak around noon on Sunday, Jan. 4.

Within an hour, officials evacuated the nearby businesses of Paragon, Northside Pizza, Ready Paint Fire and Stella's Hungry Horse and closed Main Street to vehicle and pedestrian traffic between French Street and Watson Avenue.

"You can smell the gas everywhere," said Bethany Huelin, owner of Ready Paint Fire, from Columbine Café Monday morning. "They've been out there all night digging up the road."

As a precaution, the gas and electricity to those businesses were cut off, and neighboring businesses voluntarily closed or made alternate arrangements during the road closure.

The utility responded to the incident with the help of Red, White and Blue, Breckenridge Police Department, Summit County Office of Emergency Management, Lake Dillon Fire Protection District, Summit County Ambulance Service, Breckenridge Public Works and the American Red Cross.

WINTER WATER WOES

Also on Monday, Breckenridge officials responded to a water main break at 1389 American Way, about a half mile west of Upper Blue Elementary and the Breckenridge Terrace Apartments.

Dykstra said the residents of the six homes that had their water shut off during the repair were notified directly.

The town's 100-mile water system experiences four to seven water main breaks a year, she said, which is below the goal of 15 per 100 miles a year suggested by the American Water Works Association as well as averages in Denver and Colorado Springs.

Most of the breaks occur between Labor Day to Memorial Day due to shifting soils from cold temperatures, and the town is gradually upgrading water mains in areas with old pipes that have the most frequent main breaks such as the Peak 7, Silver Shekel and Warriors Mark neighborhoods.