LACONIA — Utility company crews worked for more than three hours to repair a gas-main leak which disrupted traffic and some business activity around Lakeport Square Wednesday morning.

The leak began just before 8 a.m. when a worker for Busby Construction Co. Inc. struck a 3-inch gas line in front of 831 Union Avenue.

Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said the shovel on an excavator hooked line, causing it to rupture.

But a spokesman for the gas company said the breach occurred when a Busby employee, thinking the line was inactive, cut into it with a saw.

Busby, a contracting firm, was digging to do work on the drainage system under the street as part of a months-long road reconstruction project, according to Assistant Public Works Director Krista Larsen.

Crews from Liberty Utilities were able to stop the leak by digging holes on either side of the break in order to crimp the line to stem the flow of gas, Liberty Utility spokesman Emily Burnett explained.

A call to Busby Construction seeking comment was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

Beattie said the cause of the leak remains under investigation.

He said markings had been placed to show the location of underground utilities in the area where the work was taking place.

"There's confusion on why this pipe was struck," the chief said. "They were digging away from the markings, and yet they hit the line."

The leak was stopped at 10:55 a.m., Burnett said.

Union Avenue was closed to traffic from Mechanic Street to Clinton Street, and a short stretch of Elm Street between Union Avenue and Park Street was also closed.

Beattie said gas service to two buildings in the immediate area, including Fratello’s restaurant, was shut off. The construction crew working on the new Lakeport Landing building was told to leave the area.

The building at 831 Union Ave. which houses both apartments and businesses, was considered unsafe to occupy, but Beattie said there was no one in the building when the leak began.

The utility expected to have gas service restored to that building by mid-afternoon, Burnett said.

Union Avenue was reopened to limited through traffic at 11:30 a.m., Beattie said.

Meredith EMS and the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department provided station coverage for Laconia, Beattie said.

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