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WPS practices for response to major natural gas leakSubmitted: 04/27/2015
RHINELANDER - Last year, a valve malfunction in eastern Wisconsin sent natural gas leaking into the air. A similar situation in the Northwoods could cut off gas supply to a whole city and be dangerous to people in the nearby area.

Wisconsin Public Service wants to be ready in case something like that happens. A natural gas station near the intersection of Highways 8 and 47 provides natural gas to most of the Rhinelander. Workers rushed there on Monday, simulating their response to a leak.

"In the worst case scenario, we would lose the whole town of Rhinelander, and then we would have to get into everybody's home and re-light their appliances," said WPS gas mechanic Shane Sarkkinen. "Everybody's home in the town could be affected. And all of the businesses."

One large business in particular relies heavily on natural gas from WPS.

"The larger customers that it would supply would be like the paper mill. This has a direct line right to the paper mill. We'd be contacting them and letting them know that they're going to be shut down," Sarkkinen said.

WPS tries to keep its workers ready for the worst potential situations.

"We generally have a dry run situation like this every spring of the year, before construction season for the reason that if a contractor or anybody would do something to our line, or if we had a failure, we know what steps are in place," Sarkkinen said.

WPS practiced contacting law enforcement about a potential leak. The company would also evacuate about a quarter-mile radius from the station if a leak happened. On Monday, the wind blew from the northeast. During an actual leak, that would mean natural gas would blow over the Wisconsin River and not across the roadway.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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