Heritage Gas won’t delay its natural gas line extension project after workers caused a major system break on Tuesday morning that forced the evacuation of more than 300 south-end city residents.

The company says it will investigate how a backhoe belonging to Sackville Trenching, the contractor Heritage Gas hired, managed to rip open a portion of the gas line at South Park Street and Fenwick Street at about 9:40 a.m.

The incident forced emergency crews to cordon off and evacuate the area bordered by Tower Road to Queen Street and Victoria Road to Morris Street for more than four hours.

Alice McCarron, Heritage Gas’s vice president of marketing and business development, said as unfortunate as the incident was – it was the third major break of the year, including Tuesday’s second gas leak on Gaston Road in Dartmouth – she said they aren’t unheard of.

“Leaks and line hits are not something new for a natural gas company,” she said. “We will restore gas for those five customers who lost service and then we will continue to work.

“But we will do a full investigation with the contractor to determine what the actual cause was so we can assess why it happened.”

Company crews took about an hour and a half to stop the south-end leak. Meanwhile emergency responders worked to get people out of their residents and offices.

About 200 Workers’ Compensation Board employees had gathered at the Atlantic Superstore parking lot on Barrington Street an hour after the leak after being evacuated from their offices on Fenwick Street and South Park Street.

Residents were eventually allowed back to their homes and offices at about 2:30 p.m. about an hour after power was restored to the 7,300 customers who lost electricity due to the leak.

“It was a major incident, a two inch main had burst… that’s why we evacuated the public,” said Halifax Regional Fire Chief Doug Trussler.

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