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Changes in the works for Maine's "Dig Safe" laws following deadly Farmington explosion

Representative Seth Berry has proposed a bill in response to the September blast that killed Capt. Michael Bell, a 30-year member of Farmington Fire Rescue.

AUGUSTA, Maine — It's been four months since a deadly blast at the site of LEAP Inc. in Farmington, which claimed the life of Captain Michael Bell and injured six other fire personnel as well as Larry Lord, a maintenance worker at the building.

Lord, who is still recovering in a Boston hospital, is credited with saving more than a dozen employees by alerting them to the smell of gas and ushering them out of the building.  

More than a week after the blast the State Fire Marshal's Office said a propane leak caused the explosion. Investigators said they discovered a significant leak in the propane line which was buried under the paved parking lot.  

Investigators are still trying to figure out how the line was damaged and what caused the leak.

NEWS CENTER Maine has learned the final report from the Fire Marshal's Office could be released by the end of the week.

In response to the blast, Senator Seth Berry (D- Bowdoinham), introduced a bill this week to make changes to Maine's "Dig Safe" laws. LD 1892 would prohibit digging around liquefied propane (LP) gas lines. 

“It is unfortunate that we have not already passed a bill to protect our LP lines," said Berry at the bill’s public hearing before the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee. "If we had, the devastating explosion in Farmington could have been avoided."

“I was very surprised to find that the type of buried line one would most want to have protected by Dig Safe is not covered by the program, especially with the number of people in more rural areas of Maine who use LP as a fuel,” added Sen. Russell Black (R-Wilton), a co-sponsor of the bill. “This is something we must remedy as quickly as possible to save lives and avoid future tragedies.”

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