AUGUSTA — A Maine Natural Gas spokesperson said no gas was found inside the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory on Thursday, but a valve leak was repaired before employees were allowed back in the building.

This is the second time in three months the lab has been evacuated for a natural gas-related problem. The lab, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and Maine State Police Troop D barracks and several nearby homes were evacuated on July 15 after an excavator hit a natural gas line. Hartnett said the two incidents were unrelated.

“The July incident was related to a contractor digging into a line outside the building,” she wrote in an email. “This was completely different in that yesterday (Thursday) there was a minor-level valve leak where no gas reading registered in the rest of the building.”

The leak was resolved about two hours after employees evacuated the building following a reported odor of gas at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Department of Public Safety spokesperson Steve McCausland said lab personnel detected the odor and the Augusta Fire Department responded.

Maine Natural Gas spokesperson Catharine Hartnett said Friday morning that Maine Natural Gas found “no gas or carbon monoxide readings” in the building. She said a leak was discovered on a “riser valve” and service was shut off to make repairs to that leak. She said the building was safe around 10:30 a.m.

Hartnett said the frequent changes from cold to warm weather causes valves to expand and retract, which created the leak. She said the leak, which she called a “fizz leak,” was found by spraying soap on the valve and looking for “small bubbles” emitting from the area of the leak. She said Maine Natural Gas uses twice as much odorant in its product than what is legally required, adding that in these cases, the odorant is usually what is leaking, not the gas.


McCausland said some employees at the nearby Maine State Police Troop D barracks were told of the leak, but not evacuated.

Public Utilities Commission spokesperson Harry Lanphear said the commission recommended a $500 penalty and damage prevention training for contractors, Augusta-based MainEx, responsible for the July incident.

“The company has 30 days to decide how to proceed,” he said. “They may either pay the penalty and attend training or dispute the violation.”

Central Maine fire department officials told the Kennebec Journal earlier this month that departments are hearing more gas-related calls in the wake of the fatal explosion in Farmington. Capt. Michael Bell of the Farmington Fire Rescue Department was killed in an explosion earlier this month at the Life Enrichment Advancing People central office at 313 Farmington Falls Road. Investigators said more than 400 gallons of propane leaked before the explosion.

Harnett said since the Farmington explosion, customers have been more aware of natural gas problems and she said Maine Natural Gas “congratulates” them for their vigilance.

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