Frequently asked
[]  Why is the SURE project needed? 
In 2008, when Unitil acquired Northern Utilities, we inherited an infrastructure that included many miles of old cast-iron gas mains, some more than 100 years old. By replacing older cast iron pipes with state-of-the-art plastics, the system will be able to operate at a higher pressure, which means more reliable service for the rapidly growing number of customers in southern Maine who are enjoying the many benefits of clean-burning natural gas.

The SURE Project has been developed in conjunction with, and approved by, the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which closely regulates our activities.

[]  Is the current system safe? 
Yes, but an added benefit of the SURE Project is that it allows Unitil to replace aging pipes before they become a concern.

[]  Why will the project take so many years? 
Pipeline replacement is complex, methodical, labor-intensive work, so itís not uncommon for projects of this magnitude to take years to complete. In addition, we canít work when the ground is frozen, except for emergency repairs, so our construction season is only about seven months each year. We have already completed upgrades in Westbrook and are making great progress in Portland.

[]  What is involved in replacing gas pipelines? 
Because gas pipelines are buried several feet underground, we have to excavate to replace or upgrade them. Gas mains are located under the street, and individual service lines from the main to businesses and homes may lie under sidewalks, lawns, driveways and parking lots.

In some cases we will have to dig long trenches to replace whole sections of pipe, but wherever possible we will dig smaller holes and insert the new pipe through the existing older pipe. We also have to dig smaller holes every place where there is a service line connection to a home or business.

[]  How disruptive is the construction to the general public? 
You will certainly be aware of vehicles, equipment and construction activity if we are in your area, but we do everything we can to minimize disruptions. Businesses will always have access for customers and deliveries, and homeowners will never be blocked from entering or leaving their property.

When we are working in roadways, we always try to have at least one lane of traffic and one sidewalk open, but traffic delays in congested areas or on major roadways are likely at certain times of the day. If we anticipate major delays or night work, we will issue traffic advisories to local media and post them on this website.

We try to work closely with businesses and homeowners so that we are aware of any special circumstances that may be impacted by construction. We also have set up a special, toll-free hotline at 866-821-4386 so you can call anytime with questions or concerns.

[]  How will I know when you are going to be working in my area? 
We will be informing you of our construction schedule in a variety of ways: this website, through the news media, flyers dropped off at your home or business, and neighborhood meetings. We are making every effort to give you as much advance notice, and as much information, as possible.

[]  What are my responsibilities as a property owner? 
In compliance with state DigSafe laws, other utilities are required to mark the location of underground lines, such as water, sewer and gas, in the area where construction will be taking place. Thatís why you will see various colored paint marks on the ground.

In addition, property owners are required to indicate the location of privately-owned underground facilities on their property (including private water, electric, telephone, cable, and fiber optic lines, sprinklers, dog fences, and wires for light posts and signs) within 72 hours of receiving our notice.

In the case of sewer service lines, property owners are responsible for indicating the location of the line all the way to the connection with the sewer main in the street.

For more information, please visit the Maine Public Utilities Commission website at and click the link in the right-hand column for ďUnderground Damage Prevention Program.Ē

[]  Is dangerous to live or work near gas line construction? 
Unitil and our contractor, NEUCO, make safety their top priority. Working with gas lines does require special care, but our crews know what they are doing. They are experienced and well trained. We have to obtain permits for all of our work and get approvals from the city for our construction and traffic plans. In addition, all of our work is independently inspected in accordance with state and federal regulations.

[]  If I want to convert my home or business to natural gas, is now a good time? 
As far as weíre concerned, clean burning natural gas is a great value, so itís always a good time to convert! For more information about switching to gas, click here.

[]  What if I have additional questions about the project?  
To keep you fully informed about the project and our progress, we have created this special project website. Please visit us often to receive project updates and other useful information and donít hesitate to call the project hotline at 866-821-4386 anytime you have a question.