Channel 2 Action News has learned the company charged with marking a gas line has taken responsibility for leaving a portion of the line unmarked, which caused a contractor to hit the line and force a major leak.
Northwest Atlanta businesses and residents were evacuated, and in some cases hospitalized Dec. 22, after a local contractor hit the line on Taylor Street.
“You literally smelled gas as if it was on you, “ said Fashon Ramsey, an employee at the DeFoor Centre where a 300-guest event was canceled due to evacuations.
Ramsey said more than a dozen event staffers headed to the ER.
“It had a bigger effect on people’s health than people actually think,” he said Friday.
“If there were any possible laws and regulations that weren’t followed I’d hope there would be some kind of consequence,” added Russell Dawkins, a Taylor Street resident who had to evacuate his home.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr retrieved a copy of the Atlanta Fire incident report showing Griffin-based Mallory Advance Underground Communications behind the work Saturday evening. It describes gas seeping through the pavement and the isolation zone quickly expanding.
Over the weekend, one of Mallory’s workers told Carr that the portion of the gas line they hit was unmarked, as they worked to lay conduit for Verizon. They also addressed concerns with local businesses.
“Apparently from what the worker said, the line was incorrectly marked,” said business owner, Amber Padgett. “And they dug from the opposite side, which is where the line was really at.”
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On Friday, Carr reached a spokesperson with Atlanta Gas Light who confirmed the company is not responsible for the markings.
State law requires anyone digging, contractors or homeowners, to call 811 and have the lines marked themselves to ensure nothing like the Taylor Street incident happens.
The program is funded by state utilities and provides free markings and training within a 72-hour request period.
Late Friday, David Mallory, the contracting company’s president returned Carr’s call and confirmed he’d undergone the 811 process. He said USIC, the underground utility damage prevention corporation, mismarked the gas line.
“We had to fill out a damage claim, and it’s on the damage claim report for them taking full responsibility,” Mallory said .
Carr asked Mallory whether this has happened to his company before Saturday’s leak.
“This is the first time in 20 years I’ve went through something like this, “ Mallory replied.
In past years' reports, the state has fined contractors and homeowners as much as $500,000 annually for similar mishaps, which can be coded as violations of the Georgia’s “digging laws.”
State regulators were not working Friday to field a request concerning whether fines will be levied against USIC in this case. Carr was not able to reach 811 partners, USIC, on Friday.
The City of Atlanta confirms it does not typically issue fines in these situations, although city resources are called upon to mitigate them.