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Call before you clear

As a drain cleaning professional, you may accidently strike a cross bore while clearing a plugged sewer. A cross bore is when a natural gas line is mistakenly installed within a sewer line.

Cross bores pose no threat unless they are struck by equipment such as a motorized auger, power-snake or other root-cutting equipment. When this happens, natural gas can leak into the sewer system and up into the affected property, which could lead to personal injury or an explosion.

In the United States, there have been cases of home explosions, fire, injury and death due to natural gas leaks from cross bores. While no instances have taken place in Canada, there have been cross bores detected in Ontario.

Steps to take before clearing a blocked sewer

  1. Once you have arrived on site and determined the blockage is from external factors and not internal plumbing, be sure to call Ontario One Call. They consider this an emergency call and will meet you at the location to determine if a cross bore is detected. There is no charge to the contractor or property owner for this service.
  2. Wait for Ontario One Call to check its records for cross bores in the area and confirm if an in-line camera inspection is needed. Do not attempt to use your own video equipment to determine if a cross bore is present.
  3. Only begin to clear the line once Ontario One Call has provided confirmation it is safe to proceed.

Signs you've struck a natural gas line

If you suspect natural gas is leaking on the premises or you may have hit a line while inspecting, please contact EPCOR right away.

Knowing how to detect a leak can help reduce the risks to both people and property. These are the signs to look out for:

Smell it: If you smell Sulphur or rotten eggs outside it could be the Methyl Mercaptan we've added to natural gas to make a leak detectable.

See it: Visible signs of a leak include patches of dead vegetation, blowing dust from holes in the ground, bubbles in wet or flooded areas or even flames. In some cases, spotting vapours or ground frosting of white dust can suggest a leak.

Hear it: A hissing or roaring noise along the right- of-way of a pipeline could also indicate a natural gas leak.

Natural gas isn't toxic but it is flammable so keep the area clear and don't start any motors or motor vehicles near the area.