Workers hit gas line, causing surgery postponements at Saratoga Hospital

Construction workers hit a natural gas line this morning outside Saratoga Hospital, causing some pat

Construction workers hit a natural gas line this morning outside Saratoga Hospital, causing some patients to be moved and elective surgeries to be postponed.

No injuries were reported in the incident.

Workers from DelSignore Companies, the contractor hired by the city to reconstruct Church Street, hit an underground gas line while using a backhoe in the roadway near Van Rensselaer Street, said Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, commissioner of public works.

The gas line was only one to two feet underground instead of the usual four feet or more, he said.

Apparently the line had not been marked before workers dug, or else it had been marked but the workers didn’t realize it was that shallow.

“They heard the hissing sound about a block away,” Scirocco said of residents and others in the area. “It could have been a catastrophe.”

Power company National Grid shut off the gas to that two-inch line, which was the main line into the hospital, Scirocco said. The gas was shut off at 11:20 a.m., an hour and 20 minutes after the break, said Patrick Stella, National Grid spokesman.

Hospital spokeswoman Ellen Kerness said the smell of gas was obvious in the hospital. Some patients nearest the site of the leak were moved to other rooms. Elective surgeries were postponed and visitors were asked to stay in the hospital longer rather than go outside and start their cars, she said.

“We went very quickly into action here,” Kerness said. “There was no risk to anybody in the organization.”

People were able to go back about their regular business within a couple of hours, she said.

The gas line has either already been fixed and turned back on or will soon be fixed, Stella said.

Crews are still on the scene this afternoon, he said.

Scirocco said the gas line now will need to be moved because it is too close to the surface of the road.

Bedrock is only a few feet under the surface in that area of the city, so utilities are closer to the surface than they would otherwise be, Scirocco said.

Scirocco noted DelSignore workers on Tuesday afternoon had a water main leak after trying to hook a line to a 12-inch main to service a house in the construction zone.

The tap failed, gushing pressurized water up above the nearby house, Scirocco said.

When they couldn’t find the right shutoff valve quickly, workers opened up hydrants to lower the water pressure, then DPW workers came in with their equipment to suck the water out of the hole and fix the leak, he said.

“The water was shooting right over the house,” Scirocco said.

Church Street has been closed down while contractors resurface the road as part of a two-phase project that is expected to end before summer.

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