- Created: Thursday, 15 July 2021 13:06
- Written by Dana Raidt
Thirty-five years ago this month, tragedy struck in the Twin Cities suburb of Mounds View, Minnesota. A leaking gas pipeline running a mile west of Interstate 35W, underneath Long Lake Road, exploded in the early morning hours of July 8, 1986. The fires from multiple blasts killed two people—a 6-year-old child and her mother—and severely injured another woman who had been out on her Tuesday morning newspaper delivery route while the neighborhood slept.
As the July 9, 1986 edition of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune described, “Manhole covers blew out of the ground, spewing sparks and fire like giant blowtorches. Walls of flame taller than utility poles flashed down the streets, melting power lines and mailboxes. Shrubs burst into flame and leaves wilted.”
The disaster didn’t only affect families and first responders, though—it forever changed how underground utility damage prevention works, and is perceived, in Minnesota. After the Mounds View incident, the state legislature conducted a pipeline safety study and mandated that comprehensive damage prevention legislation be passed. State Statute Chapter 216D, the state dig law that we all follow today, resulted in 1987. Later that year, Gopher State One Call was formally approved as the state’s damage prevention notification center. Its job? Receive notices of intent to excavate—and in turn, contact all facility operators in the area so that they could mark the lines before excavation.
GSOC accepted its first locate request on October 1, 1988. Since then, it has worked tirelessly to educate utility operators, locators, excavators and homeowners about damage prevention so that an incident like the one on July 8, 1986 doesn’t happen again. In 2020 alone, GSOC handled 941,358 notices to excavate, the highest number recorded in its history.