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safety and usage

Natural Gas Pipeline Safety

What You Need to Know

Whether you are at home, at work, or in a public place, it's likely you are in an area served by natural gas pipelines. More than 2.2 million miles of pipelines and mains quietly, reliably and efficiently deliver natural gas everyday for use by residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Like all forms of energy, natural gas must be handled properly. Despite an excellent safety record, a gas leak caused by damage to a pipeline may pose a hazard and has the potential to ignite.

Since pipelines are underground, line markers are sometimes used to indicate their approximate location. The markers display the name of the pipeline operator and the telephone number where the operator can be reached in the event of an emergency.

Whether you are a natural gas customer or not it is important for you to be familiar with the characteristics of natural gas, and be prepared to react quickly and properly to ensure your safety and the safety of others.


Leak Recognition and Response

A gas leak is often recognized by smell, sight or sound.

SMELL – Natural gas is colorless and odorless. A distinctive, pungent odor, similar to rotten eggs, is added so that you'll recognize it quickly. Not all transmission lines are odorized.

SIGHT – You may see a white dust cloud, mist, fog, bubbles in standing water or blowing dust. You may also see vegetation that appears to be dead or dying for no apparent reason.

SOUND – You may hear an unusual noise like roaring, hissing or whistling.


What You Should Do if You Suspect a Leak

  • MOVE to a safe environment.
  • CALL us immediately 1-800-292-5012 (Berkshire Gas Emergency Number)
  • DO NOT smoke or operate electrical switches of appliances. These items may produce a spark that might ignite the gas and cause an explosion.
  • DO NOT assume someone else will report the condition.
  • Provide the exact location, including cross streets.
  • Let us know if sewer construction or digging activities are going on in the area.

Download our Natural Gas Safety Brochure


Know What You're Digging Into

The greatest risk to underground natural gas pipelines is accidental damage during excavation. Excavation damage accounts for almost 60 percent of all reported pipeline incidents. Even minor damage such as a gouge, scrape, dent, or crease to a pipeline or its coating may cause a leak or failure.

To protect pipelines and other underground facilities, the law requires that all excavators contact Dig Safe by dialing 811 before excavation work begins on public or private property. Whether you are a do-it-yourself homeowner or a professional excavator, every job requires a phone call. Dig Safe will contact the gas utility operator of underground facilities in the immediate area so the location of pipelines can be marked prior to excavation. This service is performed at no cost to you.

Underground pipelines often run along a public street, but may also be near private property. The area along each side of the pipeline is known as a right-of-way, which gives the facility owner the “right” to restrict certain activities, even on private property. Right-of-way locations must be respected and are usually marked on maps filed with local municipalities. Dig Safe can provide excavators with specific details regarding precautions required, in addition to having the location of underground facilities marked. Failure to comply with the law can jeopardize public safety, result in costly damages and lead to substantial fines.


Our Commitment to Safety

Safety is the natural gas industry's top priority. The industry spends more than $6 billion each year to maintain the gas distribution system's excellent safety record. We work with industry and peer groups to continually enhance our pipeline safety and training methods. At the state level, we work with regulators on programs designed to ensure the safe operation of the natural gas distribution system for customers and residents. And, as new technologies are developed in pipeline design, construction, inspections, and operations, we will continue to invest in pipeline integrity programs that will allow the safe and secure delivery of natural gas.

We work very closely with industry and government agencies on a variety of measures used to ensure pipeline safety including:

  • Coordination with Dig Safe
  • Visual inspection programs
  • Design and construction techniques
  • Workforce training
  • Industry safety practices and government oversight
  • Pipeline markers and facility mapping
  • Public education programs


And we work with emergency responders, sate and local agencies to prevent and prepare for emergencies through training and periodic drills. These exercises test procedures, logistics, communications and more. Emergency plans and procedures are periodically updated and made available to state authorities.





Additional Information from Berkshire Gas


Excess Flow Valve Notification

At Berkshire Gas, we take a number of steps to help ensure safe, reliable natural gas service to your home and business:

• Regularly inspecting natural gas equipment and rights-of-way

• Systematically updating and modernizing our system

• Monitoring operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week

• Adding odorant to natural gas to produce a "rotten egg" smell if a leak occurs

• Working with first responders to be prepared for emergencies

• Reminding everyone to always call 811 before digging

We also want you to know about Excess Flow Valves (EFVs), which are an additional safety measure that may be installed on certain underground service lines running between the natural gas main and your gas meter. Although not necessary for the normal, safe operation of a service line, potential benefits of EFVs are described below.

Federal regulations at 49 C.F.R. §192.383(d) regarding gas pipeline safety requires Berkshire Gas to notify customers of their right to request installation of an Excess Flow Valve (EFV) on their existing gas service line under certain circumstances. An EFV is a mechanical safety device installed inside a gas service line between the gas main in the street and the gas meter. The EFV provides a potential safety benefit -- it is designed to automatically minimize or shutoff the flow of gas in the event of a service line break. In the event that an excavator accidentally digs up the gas service line, the valve would operate to automatically minimize or shut off the flow of gas.

If your service line operates at a pressure of less than 10 pounds per square inch gauge throughout the year, the service line is exempt from EFV installation. Customers with loads of 1,000 standard cubic feet of gas per hour ("SCFH") or less are eligible for an EFV unless one or more of the following conditions exist: (1) the customer’s service line operates at a pressure of less than 10 pounds per square inch gauge throughout the year; (2) the gas company has prior experience with contaminants in the gas stream that could interfere with the EFV’s operation or cause loss of service to a customer; (3) there is potential for interference with necessary operation or maintenance activities, such as blowing liquids from the line; or (4) an EFV meeting the performance standards set forth in the federal regulations is not commercially available to the gas company.

EFV Conditions & Information

EFVs do not operate on all gas service lines and certain parameters may exist where installation of an EFV is not warranted. Many customers already have an EFV installed on their existing service line. If you would like to determine if you are eligible to have an EFV installed on your gas service line:

• Call Berkshire Gas at 413-445-0339 or 1-800-292-5012 and select Option 3


• By Email: (please provide name, phone number and location that you are inquiring about)

Installation requires Dig Safe notification, a municipal or state street opening permit and excavation where the existing gas service line connects to the gas distribution main. Your gas service will be interrupted during the installation.

The cost of installing the EFV is estimated to range between $2,000 - $4,000. Additional costs may apply based on location-specific installation needs. Installations for eligible customers will be scheduled to align with other upcoming work or as soon as practicable at a mutually agreeable date.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities ("MDPU") is currently reviewing a request by Berkshire Gas to allow the EFV to be installed without a direct charge to the customer. Customer requests for EFV installations will be scheduled to occur after the MDPU’s final decision on payment responsibility in compliance with the MDPU’s decision. In the future, additional costs may be incurred to maintain and/or replace the EFV and those costs may be charged to the customer.

An EFV is an additional safety feature in the event that a natural gas service line is damaged by an excavator that digs into an underground pipe. The best way to keep your family, your neighbors and the community safe is to call Dig Safe at 811 at least 3 business days before starting any digging project. 811 is a FREE, one-call service that notifies local utility companies to locate and mark their underground facilities so you can dig safely. Calling 811 can help prevent potential hazards like digging into natural gas pipelines.


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