By Judith Scherr
Daily Planet staff
Two buildings at Berkeley High School were evacuated at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday after a drilling rig working on a high school construction project hit a high-pressure gas pipe at Milvia and Kittredge streets, fire officials said.
PG&E had “squeezed off” the 4-inch pipe’s gas flow by 4:30 p.m. and gas service was expected to be restored to the six affected customers by about 7:30 p.m., said PG&E spokesperson Jennifer Ramp.
Berkeley Police closed off nearby streets and advised people near the site of the escaping gas to remain indoors. Gas could be smelled as far away as three blocks from the rupture, at Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way.
The exact cause of the accident is unclear at this point. Project manager Bob Arntz of Arntz Brothers, working on a BHS project near the ruptured pipe, was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon.
Normally, when a project is undertaken, the construction company will procure utility maps from Underground Service Alert (USA), Ramp said.
“We were definitely marked,” said Ramp, who had obtained that information from PG&E personnel at the site of the accident. Ramp explained that utility pipes are marked above ground with paint, with the depth clearly indicated.
PG&E’s Health, Safety and Claims Department investigates such incidents and determines responsibility, which can lead to a legal process, said PG&E spokesperson Jonathan Franks.