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Based in the UK for context.

I recently had my old lead water main replaced. The trench was dug by a contractor but I backfilled this trench and have been building a garden path above (MOT sub base + brick stair risers).

The gas main runs underneath the path, parallel to the water main but on the other side of the path, and shallower (we're talking about a foot depth if that). The contractor who dug the trench for the water pipe also dug out around the gas pipe (they weren't sure which services were where so had to dig a bit to work it out). They filled this bit in and when they were done there was no gas pipe visible as I recall.

Since I started compacting hardcore and MOT sub base above the clay, twice I have noticed a very faint smell of gas right at the bottom of the path, near the pavement (furthest from the house). It's almost undetectable and it's gone as soon as I get the first whiff - almost like it just got carried over in the wind. I can't smell anything by putting my nose to the ground.

My plan at the moment is to call the gas emergency line and get someone round to check for leaks. If it turns out there is a leak, who would be responsible for fixing this, given that:

  • The pipe should have been bedded in sand/gravel to support it
  • It's the gas main before the meter, I don't think I own this as the home owner?
  • The pipe is laid too shallow and is very old / predates building regs
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  • Not sure how reliable it is (I'm based in the US), but you can request plans for all your service lines that should help avoid any guessing in the future. national-one-call.co.uk Apr 20, 2023 at 19:15

2 Answers 2

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I called the emergency gas people who came to inspect the site and they couldn't detect a leak, luckily.

The man told me that had there been a leak, it would have been classed as damage so would have been my (or contractor's) responsibility to pay for repairs.

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Prior to the meter is usually the responsibility of the supplier.

There is an emergency number to contact and they will find the source of the leak. That will determine the ultimate responsibility for the repair.

BUT get it checked ASAP or quicker...

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  • What are the potential consequences of a small gas leak outdoors though? It couldn't cause an explosion could it? Apr 20, 2023 at 10:28
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    Yes, the gas could collect in the interstitial spaces in the soil or form a gas bubble then a carelessly discarded cigarette will ignite it and BOOM bye bye house or road or path... Just get it checked NOW
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 20, 2023 at 10:32
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    @FelaMaslen Did you not read Solar Mike's earlier comment? It explains why a gas leak can cause an explosion outdoors.
    – Sneftel
    Apr 20, 2023 at 11:03
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    Also, an underground leak can percolate into nearby basements.. Report it. The gas company should respond mediately, probe the soul to determine how serious the leak is, and schedule a repair.... But note that if they decide it's a small leak they may just monitor it for an extended time before actually fixing it. (In my neighborhood they decided they needed to replace the entire main for five blocks... And took several years to actually get that done. If it has gotten worse or started being measurable in basements they might have made it a higher priority.)
    – keshlam
    Apr 20, 2023 at 11:28
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    @FelaMaslen that quick response just shows you how seriously they take it.
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 20, 2023 at 13:15

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