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Xcel finds defective natural gas pipe parts in Fargo-Moorhead area

Century pipe was found to be a factor in a Sept. 2, 2008, natural gas explosion that destroyed this south Fargo home. (Forum file photo)

FARGO -- After tearing up lawns last summer to replace a flawed brand of natural gas pipe, Xcel Energy is digging up some of the same yards to fix a newly installed and potentially defective pipe connector.

Letters recently went out to about 230 customers in Fargo, plus a handful in Dilworth, Moorhead and West Fargo, informing them of the repair work, Xcel spokeswoman Bonnie Lund said.

Repairs began Nov. 30 and should wrap up by the end of the year, weather permitting, she said.

Xcel will patch up the boulevards, sidewalks and driveways until they can be permanently restored in the spring.

"That's the unfortunate thing about this time of year," Lund said. "We wanted to get the work done, but as far as restoring, obviously you can't really seed grass and work with frozen dirt very well, so we will go back in the spring and complete the restoration work."

The potentially defective parts, called "tap tees," connect a home's individual service line to the natural gas main.

Xcel used the parts when replacing Century Utility Products pipe, which was installed from 1971 to 1977, as well as in some new construction areas.

Xcel decided to replace all Century pipe in North Dakota after it was found to be a factor in a Sept. 2, 2008, natural gas explosion that leveled a home at 2215 15th St. S. in Fargo. Xcel later settled for an undisclosed amount with the family injured in the blast.

North Dakota Public Service Commission staffers are still reviewing the house explosion case and will recommend whether Xcel should be fined for safety violations.

Xcel had until Nov. 15 to provide documents requested by the commission, and the utility met the deadline, said Patrick Fahn, the commission's compliance director.

This fall, while doing field installation pressure tests, Xcel discovered certain lots of the tap tees had the potential to leak, Lund said. The utility immediately stopped using the product and notified its manufacturer of the failure, she said.

Xcel continues to conduct leak surveys to ensure customers' safety in areas where the tees were installed, she said.

Lund said she didn't have a cost estimate for the repairs. Xcel is working with the manufacturer on a resolution to cover the cost, she said.

The tap tee repair generally won't interrupt gas service, but if it does, Xcel will relight pilot lights for customers, Lund said.

The potentially defective tap tees also were installed in other locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, she said.