WATERVILLE — Thoroughly clearing snow and ice from the meter assembly could reduce the risk of another gas leak like the one reported in Waterville Tuesday afternoon, a Summit Natural Gas spokeswoman said Wednesday.

A gas leak at Motor Supply Co. on College Avenue that forced an evacuation of the business was likely caused by a buildup of snow and ice on the meter and not by a failure of the gas lines at the site, a spokeswoman for Summit Natural Gas said Wednesday.

The gas leak was discovered in mid-afternoon on Tuesday and triggered a response from Summit and the Waterville Fire Department. The level of natural gas inside the Motor Supply building reached 28 percent, according to Fire Chief David LaFountain, who said a gas service pipe became disconnected at the point where it entered the building near the gas meter.

Summit spokeswoman Tammy Poissonnier said the problem was apparently caused because snow and ice built up on a meter assembly, which also may have been damaged by snow or ice falling from above.

“Freezing (or cold) in and of itself has little effect on plastic and steel pipelines and would not cause a failure such as the one we had in Waterville,” Poissonnier said.

Summit has an ongoing education campaign underway to warn residents to take steps to protect the meter assembly from being damaged because of snow and ice buildup, Poissonnier said.

LaFountain said Tuesday Motor Supply Co. plans to clear the snow differently to reduce the risk and said other places with natural gas hookups could take similar measures to protect gas connections from snow and ice.

Summit crews repaired the leak while firefighters ventilated the building to eliminate the explosive potential posed by the gas.

LaFountain said the experience may lead people to use extra caution with the connection between the gas meter and the pipeline bringing natural gas into the building.

“It may be wise to change how you clear your snow,” said LaFountain.

 


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