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Neighborhood Deals with Frozen Natural Gas Lines

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HIAWATHA, Iowa - Eastern Iowa has seen a lot of problems with frozen water lines this winter, but one neighborhood has been dealing with frozen natural gas lines.

Nearly 100 households in Hiawatha are facing the issue.

Gerold Kaiser's neighborhood is typically very quiet.

"We have a standing joke in the neighborhood when somebody is looking at a home, we give them the age test to make sure, you know, if they have gray hair -- they are good to go, 'welcome to the neighborhood'," Kaiser said.

Over the past couple of weeks, however, they've seen quite a bit of activity.

On Tuesday, February 25, contractors were installing a new gas main for the area. MidAmerican Energy said workers used water as part of the process of drilling into the ground. At around noon, crews hit the existing distribution line near the intersection of Emmons Street and Miller Road, getting water inside the system.

Kaiser said he went without gas services that day for hours.

"It was probably about 8:00 p.m. or so when the gas was hooked up and we thought, 'good'," Kaiser said.

In the following days, though, many homes saw service come and go.

"Two doors down here, his was out one day, mine was fine. The next day mine was out and his was fine," Kaiser said.

"Since the incident, we did receive a telephone call from several customers that said that they suspected that their natural gas lines had frozen and that they were having trouble with their service. So crews have been working on the scene in that neighborhood since Thursday. We were out there Thursday, Friday and again today (Saturday) to fix the problem," said MidAmerican Energy Spokesperson Tina Potthoff.

MidAmerican said about 1/3 of the homeowners called the company because they experienced frozen gas lines, but crews made changes to equipment on nearly all of the 100 homes in hopes of preventing any additional problems.

"It's kind of freaky thing, and it was because of the water that the drilling company was using," Kaiser said.

MidAmerican Energy said it's rare for water to get into a distribution system.

Workers dug holes, blowing gas through to the system as one way of resolving the problem. Crews also went door-to-door replacing equipment and insulating pipes on just about every home.

"You can see on that run of pipe there coming out of the ground, they've added insulation to hopefully minimize the chances of it failing again," Kaiser said.

"If a gas line is frozen it's not necessarily a safety issue, but rather a service issue. It can interrupt service, but that's what we are here for to fix it, mitigate it and monitor it," Potthoff said.

MidAmerican said it only has a handful of homes left on the list where they need to make repairs. Crews are working to get in contact with the homeowners.

The spokesperson said the company doesn't expect frozen gas lines to be a problem in coming years for the neighborhood. Once the cold is gone this winter, Potthoff said the problem should be too.

MidAmerican said crews often work on infrastructure projects during the winter. Potthoff said the ground was marked correctly before the digging began.

Kaiser noted he was thankful the MidAmerican workers were patient and helpful throughout the situation.