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Gas leak forces evacuation in Pepin County

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news Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

ARKANSAW - Authorities evacuated about 25 homes in rural Pepin County Wednesday afternoon following an incident involving a natural gas pipeline.

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A farmer using a backhoe scraper in his field on 730th Street near Silver Birch Road and Round Hill Road hit the 8-inch diameter pipeline, according to Mike Loffer of Northern Natural Gas Co., which owns and operates the pipeline.

Residents living within a 1/2-mile radius of the site in Waterville Township just south of Arkansaw were being asked to leave the area, said Kim Seipel, Pepin County chief deputy. Emergency crews were on the scene.

No injuries, fires or explosions occurred, Loffer reported at 7:15 p.m. However, he said, "there is escaping gas from the leak." The 8-inch pipeline is "fairly large."

Northern Natural Gas responders were on the scene by 7 p.m. He was optimistic that when they got accurate readings it would be possible to substantially reduce the size of the evacuation radius.

Until the line can be repaired, Loffer added, there will be reduced natural gas deliveries to about 25 communities and villages he described as "downstream" from the affected pipeline.

Places with reduced gas pressure will include River Falls, Prescott, Ellsworth, Spring Valley, Hager City, Elmwood, Plum City, Arkansaw, Durand and others.

Loffer emphasized that an emergency plan is in place. Safety is of primary importance, he stressed.

Bottle trucks were en route by evening to the various communities, he added. They will deliver natural gas to the "city gate" of those communities, where local distribution companies will be able to access it and deliver it to customers.

Loffer, who was directing activity from offices in Omaha, Neb., said he could offer no timeline. "We are dispatching teams to the scene. We'll work all night," he promised.

Staff writer Jen Cullen contributed to this report.

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