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Rural families return home after gas leak

Eight rural Valley City, N.D., families returned to their homes Tuesday after being evacuated late Monday following a Dome Pipeline gas leak. The leak occurred at about 10:30 p.m. Monday as Dome crews continued repairs to the line damaged by a la...

Eight rural Valley City, N.D., families returned to their homes Tuesday after being evacuated late Monday following a Dome Pipeline gas leak.

The leak occurred at about 10:30 p.m. Monday as Dome crews continued repairs to the line damaged by a large fire July 16, said Brian Dinges, Dome public affairs director.

The leak, which may have contained a mix of propane and ethane, occurred two miles southwest of Valley City and eight miles southeast of the mid-July fire site.

Crews were extracting nitrogen from a pipeline valve when a flexible hose began to leak. Nitrogen is used during pipeline repairs and must be removed before regular product flow can be resumed, Dinges said.

The propane pooled to the ground before evaporating into the air, creating a low cloud of gas stretching about 1½ miles before dissipating, said Randy McClafin, Barnes County Sheriff.

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Dome workers shut off block valves surrounding the leak to reduce pressure, but crews waited until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to shut off the leaking valve.

"We didn't want to risk any lives," McClafin said. "We wanted to wait for the pressure to die down and daylight."

The Valley City Fire Department assisted Dome crews in shutting off the valve.

Dinges said there is no estimate as to how much gas was leaked in the incident.

Norma Duppler, Barnes County emergency manager, said the leak is being taken very seriously.

"The Health Department has been notified and my guess is that the company will have some cleaning up to do here," Duppler said.

The July Dome Pipeline fire burned an estimated 9,000 barrels of propane, with flames shooting 100 feet into the air.

Dinges said plans are to have the pipeline fully functional within the next couple of days.

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Dome is a subsidiary of the BP Amoco Group. Its 12-inch diameter line, buried five feet underground across North Dakota, carries propane from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, (west of Edmonton) to Sarnia, Ont., said Gregg Schweitzer, area supervisor for Dome out of Jamestown.

The 1,800-mile line, made of steel, was installed in 1977 and 1978, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Nick Kotzea at (701) 235-7311

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