The Maine State Police Crime Lab, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the Maine State Police Troop D barracks and several houses were evacuated after an excavator used as part of a construction project next to the Crime Lab on Hospital Street struck an underground natural gas line shortly before 3 p.m. Monday.

Augusta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jason Farris said Hospital Street also was closed down for about an hour and traffic was diverted through the Mayfair neighborhood while the leak was being investigated.

Farris said Maine Natural Gas shut off the gas at the gas main on Hospital Street, and the Fire Department brought in a positive pressure fan to clear the gas from the Crime Lab.

Catharine Hartnett, spokeswoman for Maine Natural Gas, said Monday the line that was damaged was a 2-inch service line, which carries gas from the main into the buildings it serves.

“It’s standard procedure to evacuate the buildings,” Hartnett said, noting that only the state government buildings were evacuated.

If residents came out of their houses, she said, that was their decision to leave.

“Maine Natural Gas went through all the (other) buildings in the complex, and no natural gas was found and the buildings were deemed safe,” Farris said.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Monday that in all about 40 state employees were evacuated to a point behind the old state police garage for about an hour before they could return to work.

The state police barracks houses the police officers who patrol in Kennebec and coastal counties, the state police detectives and the Traffic Safety Division.

“The leak was in the back of the Crime Lab,” McCausland said. “Land was being prepared for a small repair to a walkway where it happened.”

Hospital Street was closed for about an hour.

The leak prompted an all-hands response, Farris said. That means that off-duty firefighters are called in to cover the fire stations.

While the Fire Department left the scene about 4:30 p.m., Farris said representatives of Maine Natural Gas, the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the construction company remained at the site.

Hartnett said the incident remains under investigation.

“We’ll go step by step to determine what should have been done by whom,” she said. “We won’t have further comment until then.”


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