AUGUSTA — The Legislature continues to move forward a bill to include liquefied propane gas in Maine’s Dig Safe law, a response to last year’s deadly explosion in Farmington.

“It got its first rounds of yes votes in both the House and Senate this week,” Katie Walsh, communications director for House Democrats, said Friday. “It needs to be approved one more time by both. That could happen next week.”

It would then go to Gov. Janet Mills, she said.

The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee advanced the bill in early February. Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, submitted the bill in response to the Sept. 16, 2019, explosion at LEAP Inc.’s building, in Farmington. The blast killed Farmington Fire Rescue Capt. Michael Bell and seriously or critically injured six other firefighters and LEAP’s maintenance supervisor. The explosion left about 30 people homeless and affected nearby businesses.

Franklin County legislators, Rep. Scott Landry, D-Farmington, and Sen. Russell Black, R-Wilton, co-sponsored the bill.

The bill was amended previously to allow the legislation to go into effect immediately, if signed into law.


Findings from the Office of Maine State Fire Marshal released Jan. 24 revealed the explosion was ignited days after an underground propane line was severed during the installation of one of four bollards drilled into the ground near the building, according to a statement released by Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, at the time.

Investigators concluded the propane leaked from the severed line and led to the explosion that leveled the LEAP Inc. building at 313 Farmington Falls Road, according to the statement.

Fire investigators said the bollard work was done by Techno Metal Posts Maine of Manchester. The 10-foot-long posts were drilled into the ground about 5 feet from the building. Each was sunk about 7 feet, according to McCausland’s statement. The metal posts were installed to protect an air conditioning unit.

The source of ignition that sparked the explosion could not be determined. Several sources of ignition are possible, including disruption of electricity, a light switch, a furnace or static, according to the statement.

Techno Post has contested a Notice of Enforcement Investigation issued by a damage inspector for the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which enforces Dig Safe rules, in December 2019. He has requested an informal hearing, which is scheduled for March 25, Harry Lanphear, PUC administrative director, wrote in an email Wednesday in response to a reporter’s question.

The notice was issued to the company and owner Michael Brochu regarding the possible violation of Dig Safe rules.

The installation of the safety posts allegedly met the definition of “excavation” contained in the commission’s rules on Underground Facility Damage Prevention requirements, according to the notice.

The Office of the Maine State Fire Marshal has not released its final report on its investigation into the explosion.

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