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Enstar notifies 1,400 customers near Palmer after air pocket introduced into natural gas line

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: September 19, 2019
  • Published September 19, 2019

PALMER — Enstar was reaching out to 1,400 residents and businesses near Palmer on Thursday after a repair introduced an air bubble into the line and nearly 70 people reported gas outages.

There have been no leaks reported in the Butte area where the problem occurred, Enstar spokeswoman Lindsay Hobson said Thursday.

The company is contacting customers by phone or home visits to be proactive and make sure appliances are working properly, Hobson said. “We have not had reports of people smelling gas in their homes and we have not had inside gas leaks."

The problem, which she called a first for Enstar, started Wednesday after a crew replaced a valve in Palmer. The cause of the bubble is still under investigation.

“A few hours after the work was completed we started getting reports from customers in the Bodenburg Butte area they didn’t have gas,” Hobson said. “As those calls started coming in, we realized in replacing that valve a bit of air must have gotten into the pipe.”

The pocket of air traveling through the pipe is causing the gas shut-offs, she said. In most modern appliances, a mechanism automatically shuts off if it detects no gas.

The only appliances at risk for a leak in this situation would be commercial gas ranges or residential ranges or fireplaces with standing pilot lights, according to Enstar. In those situations, a pocket of air could blow out the pilot but gas would continue to flow.

As of Thursday evening, all but fewer than 10 of 69 customers reporting no gas had been restored by crews that either purged the line or reset the appliance, Hobson said.

Local fire crews have been notified because of the smell of natural gas that can occur when a line is purged, she said.

There had been no calls for gas leaks as of midafternoon Thursday, according to Ken Barkley, emergency services director for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The company opened a customer service line Wednesday and reopened it early Thursday. Crews worked until nearly 2 a.m. Thursday responding to calls, Hobson said.