"Unbelievable" spilled gas didn't explode, Fire Chief tells Eagan City Council

   Eagan firefighters feared an explosion when they arrived at the scene of a 500-barrel gasoline spill near Thomas Lake Jan. 8, as city officials heaved a collective sigh of relief the damage wasn’t worse.
   “We didn’t have an explosion, which is unbelievable with that amount of gasoline going down the street,” Eagan Fire Chief Mike Scott said, during an update about the event at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “It could have been a lot, lot worse.”
   Firefighters initially thought they were responding to a routine report of a gas leak, according to Scott. Such leaks or reports of the smell of gas are not uncommon at construction sites. When firefighters arrived at the Thomas Center Drive parking lot where a crew taking soil borings had struck a pipeline, they discovered it was, instead, a gasoline spill, with thousands of gallons of gasoline rapidly pouring onto the ground.
   The health club and another business at the site were evacuated, Scott said. Emergency responders began checking for explosive levels of gas in the air. They found none. The strip mall across the street appeared to be safe and was not evacuated.
   As Scott and Eagan Police Chief James McDonald described the spill, it appeared that Eagan got lucky. A stray burning ember or carelessly tossed cigarette or less ice on nearby Thomas Lake could have brought catastrophe to an area surrounded by residential neighborhoods and an elementary school.
   “I’m told we’re fortunate it wasn’t more than a spill,” Mayor Mike Maguire said at the start of the discussion.
   “When you have a river of gasoline coming down a parking lot going out into a city street, you don’t want an ignition source,” Scott said.
   The spill occurred after a contractor conducting soil borings for a parking lot expansion, STS Enterprises, struck a gasoline pipeline operated by Magellan Partners. Scott praised Magellan for their response. The company sent major resources, including more than 100 workers, to the scene quickly. Thirty-seven thousand gallons of gasoline and water and 67 trucks full of contaminated soil were removed from the area.
   “If you went down there now, you wouldn’t know there was a major event down there,” Eagan Police Chief James McDonald told the city council. City officials are awaiting Magellan’s long-term pollution monitoring plan, which they expect to receive Friday. Magellan has said it will reimburse the city for the cost of the emergency response.
   An investigation by the state’s pipeline safety office is continuing.
Eagan Police Chief James McDonald and Fire Chief Mike Scott discuss the Jan. 8 Thomas Lake Center Drive gas spill with city councilors.