Detective dogs to sniff out gas leaks in Nelson and Colne

Ace detective sniffer dogs are to be used in Nelson and Colne to lead engineers to the source of the tiniest of cracks in gas pipes.
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Former police explosives and drugs dogs Nelly, Midge and Milly are now at work for the region’s gas network Cadent, and will be employed in Nelson and Colne over two days later this summer.

They’re extra tools for the toolbox, adding to a range of methods that can help fix issues with water getting into underground gas pipes.

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The issue is not necessarily about gas getting out, but water getting in. Just half an egg cup of water is enough to block a customer’s service pipe – the narrow pipe (the width of a finger) which carries gas at the lowest pressure from the big main in the road into a property.

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These pipes might run for long distances underneath footpaths and verges, gardens and driveways. It is hugely disruptive if engineers need to dig it all up to otherwise find the source.

Cadent heard about former police dog sergeant instructor Steve Foster and his specially-trained English Springer Spaniels, and brought them to the North West for the first time this month.

The clever canines have since amazed even the most experienced engineers by tracking down small hairline fractures in the underground gas pipes.

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Rachel Endfield, business improvement specialist in Cadent’s North West network, whose idea it was to bring the dogs to the North West, said: “When water is getting into a customer’s gas supply, it can be extremely difficult to locate the source of the ingress.

"Sometimes it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Water will get in through the tiniest of cracks, which can cause problems for our customers. It can stop gas getting through and they could lose supply."

Steve Foster, whose dogs have worked on over 200 jobs since switching to gas detection work in 2017, said: “Some escapes can be really difficult to find. The dogs’ noses are thought to be anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than a human’s nose. So, they can find minute amounts of gas. That can be all you need, the golden nugget the engineers need to start with.”

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