Union Gas set to resume replacing lines next month

Duane Hicks

Union Gas is poised to resume the final year of its two-year project to replace its natural gas distribution services here.
Work is expected to get underway the week of May 10.
After crews replaced 24 km of vintage steel natural gas lines with yellow medium density plastic lines last year, Doug Alexander, director of engineering for Union Gas, told council last night that this year’s work will include replacing just over 17 km of lines.
The work also will include 995 service reconnects and 524 new service connections, 316 gas meter rebuilds, 100 meter replacements, and 1,275 regulator replacements.
Service work will be co-ordinated with customers.
The gas pipe replacement last year was done in all areas west of Central Avenue, as well as some parts of the north end of town (from McIrvine Road to Christie Avenue and from Fifth Street to Eighth Street) and parts of Portage Avenue, Church Street, and Victoria Avenue, where the first phase of the biomass roads project was carried out.
This year’s work, which is being done by Link-Line, the same contractor as last year, will include the downtown core, and the east and south parts of town.
Alexander said disruptions should be minimal since much of the replacement work will be done in back alleys and laneways.
About 95 percent of the pipe installation will be done via directional drilling. This type of drilling will be used to help reduce the impact on property since it only goes 30”-36” into the ground.
The plastic replacement pipe is very flexible, safe, and allows Union Gas to do “emergency squeeze-offs” anywhere within the town if it needs to do a shut-off.
It also is very resistant to frost movement, and is rated for up to twice the pressure Union Gas will be operating at.
Still, the new lines can be damaged and Alexander said people should could call Union Gas before they dig.
Alexander also cautioned the public that it is possible for the equipment used to install the new gas lines to drill through a sewer service line.
If residents experience a sewer back-up, Union Gas and the town is asking that residents and plumbers call the town before unclogging any sewer lines with a roto-rooter because they accidently might cut through a gas pipe and expose homeowners to natural gas in the sewer system.
The town will use a camera to see if the sewer line is being blocked by a gas pipe or not.
Alexander said Union Gas will be distributing door hangers to remind the public that if they get a blocked drain, contact the town before they call someone to unblock it.
He also noted Union Gas has been impressed with the co-operation they received from the town and its residents.
Likewise, Union Gas district manager Glenn Burton told council he was “extremely happy about how things went last year,” and a big part of that was the co-operation they received from the town.
“I know these projects can be huge headaches. You can imagine the amount of co-ordination required to do these things,” Burton noted.
“Our thanks certainly goes out to the town for being an excellent partner in trying to get this work done, and get it done right and safely,” he added.
The town and Union Gas Town have an agreement in place to formally exchange geographic information system (GIS) data to help the company develop its action place to replace its gas lines.
Mayor Roy Avis said the crew that did the pipe replacement last year was “amazing” with the fine work they did, and the good job they did cleaning up afterwards.
Union Gas first announced its plans to upgrade the gas lines running through Fort Frances in September, 2008.
The $10-million replacement project was prompted by the gas leak that led to the explosion at J.W. Walker School in February of that year.
The steel gas lines initially had been put into the ground by ICG Utilities back in 1971, when they first brought natural gas in from Manitoba to the mill.