Minneapolis sues CenterPoint over 2011 gas explosion

  • Article by: ALEJANDRA MATOS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 18, 2013 - 9:22 PM

Two years after a gas explosion in south Minneapolis, officials from the city and CenterPoint still dispute who is responsible for blast.

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It was a memorable St. Patrick’s Day in south Minneapolis two years ago when a gas line exploded at 60th Street and Nicollet Avenue. The force of the blast torched vehicles, one of which was Necole Berglund’s, in the Cub Foods parking lot. No one was injured.

Photo: Brian Peterson , Star Tribune

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The dispute between Minneapolis and CenterPoint Energy over who was at fault for a gas explosion near a south Minneapolis Cub Foods in 2011 is heading to court.

The city of Minneapolis filed a lawsuit last month against CenterPoint Energy claiming the Texas-based natural gas company was negligent in maintaining and repairing the pipe running under 60th Street and Nicollet Avenue S. The city is seeking compensation for damages to its infrastructure caused by the blast.

On March 17, 2011, the pipe exploded, sending a fireball into the sky and forcing the evacuation of six nearby blocks. No one was injured, but the blast damaged two dozen vehicles in the Cub parking lot.

The city’s claim states: “CenterPoint failed to use reasonable and ordinary care in designing, constructing, maintaining and repairing the gas pipe running under 60th Street in Minneapolis. The failures included, but are not limited to, the installation and use of improper couplings and the improper welding of connections in the gas pipeline. ”

CenterPoint denies the claim and filed a countersuit last week saying the city failed to maintain sewage and water lines running under the gas line, which created a washout that caused the gas line to bend. The company is also seeking compensation, claiming the lack of maintenance caused damage to the pipe.

Last year, the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety released a report saying CenterPoint Energy’s improper fitting of joints on the pipeline allowed it to leak.

Rebecca Virden, a spokeswoman for CenterPoint, said in a February interview that an investigation by Crane Engineering “came to the definitive conclusion that the incident was caused by a soil washout beneath the gas pipeline.”

CenterPoint said Crane determined the city’s storm sewer and water main, located under the gas pipe, were “in a deteriorated and fractured condition.” Water seeped out, creating a washout that weakened the soil and caused the gas pipe to bend and leak, she said in February.

Virden said the courts will now have to determine who was actually at fault.

“The Crane report clearly stated the root cause,” Virden said.“We still have the same position and stand behind it.”

While the city and CenterPoint point fingers at each other, a separate lawsuit was also filed last month by four insurance companies against the city and CenterPoint for damage caused to the cars in the parking lot.

Necole Berglund’s 2003 Honda Civic was completely torched in the explosion. She has been waiting for compensation for more than two years. She said she just wants the ordeal to end.

“What a mess,” Berglund said. “It’s just pointing fingers, and I don’t really care whose problem it is anymore. I just want a resolution.”

 

Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028 Twitter: @amatos12

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