Businesses hissing mad about gas-line rupture

At least one local business said it would try to recoup losses from Pacific Gas & Electric after the company failed to mark a gas line that ruptured Thursday morning and forced authorities to shut down roads for about two hours.

JMB Construction punched a hole in the gas line about 11:25 a.m., closing South Linden Avenue between Railroad and Victory avenues and not far from El Camino Real and U.S. Highway 101.

Sean Quinn, foreman for JMB Construction, said workers were using an excavator to install a sewer line when they suddenly heard the loud hiss and smelled the unmistakable smell of natural gas. They had no idea the line was there, he said.

Many local businesses had to close up shop during the busy lunchtime hour. A manager at Olympian South San Francisco, a gas station on the corner of South Linden Avenue and Canal Street, said the station lost about 100 customers and would try to recoup some of its losses from PG&E.

“This is a busy area for gas, and also for lunch,” manager Veronica Hernandez said. “People come in for fast food, beverages, snacks, candy, gum, beer. We’ll have to make an arrangement with the people who caused this, because business is business, and we’re losing business.”

Fire officials told employees at Olympian and other nearby businesses to shut their windows and doors and to report any gas odors inside buildings that could spark a fire, South San Francisco Fire Engineer Bill Svozil said. Fortunately, the high winds Thursday helped blow the gas away from the area, he said.

The area was not reopened until past 1 p.m., said Jess Magallanes, acting Battalion Chief for the South San Francisco Fire Department.

A spokesman from PG&E said the line was unmarked because it served an abandoned building. Usually, PG&E marks lines by tracing them from a building to the main gas line, spokesman Joe Molica said, but in this case, there was no gas hookup on the building.

Nearby Ross Auto Clinic had to close while the line was being repaired. Customers could not pick up their cars and parts couldn’t be delivered, said an employee of the auto shop who did not want to be identified. The employee said the closure had been inconvenient, but said she didn’t think it had lost them any business.

Molica said PG&E will consider such claims on a case-by-case basis.

kworth@examiner.com

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