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Underground gas break reroutes traffic on several Butte streets

Emergency response vehicles block off a section of Shields Avenue on Friday evening due to a significant underground gas line break.

Emergency workers are rerouting traffic at Harrison Ave. at the Civic Center as well as Second Street and Shields Avenue south of Montana Resources due to a significant underground gas line break Friday evening.

No one was hurt, no evacuations are planned, and the public is not in danger, fire officials said.

The incident began at about 4:50 p.m. when workers accidentally broke "a good-sized line," NorthWestern Energy spokesman Butch Larcombe said. The gas line was along the haul road running underneath the Patriot Rail line that travels over Shields Avenue into Montana Resources' mine operation. The haul road has been used for the last several months to move the Parrot tailings — mine and smelter waste from a long-ago smelter — buried behind the Butte Civic Center. 

Jim Ford, project manager for the Parrot tailings removal project, said workers have been wrapping up and were not supposed to have any work happening along the haul road late Friday afternoon.

By 6:45 p.m., the situation was under control with a safety zone established around the broken line. Larcombe said he had no timeline Friday evening of how quickly the gas line would get repaired.

Larcombe said NorthWestern Energy had no reports of outages due to the break.  

Mark Thompson, Montana Resources' vice president for environmental affairs, said Friday the mine believes the break did not impact the mine's operations.

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Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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