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To Fix Buried Gas Mains, A Robot Dives In

The century-old cast-iron pipe runs beneath one of the city’s busiest streets, and like thousands of other service lines across Massachusetts, it’s leaking potentially explosive and environmentally damaging natural gas.

Until recently, National Grid would have had to dig nearly 200 holes to plug the leaks beneath Berkeley Street in the Back Bay, months of tedious work that would have forced road closures, detours, and repeated service interruptions for residents living nearby.

Now, the utility company, which is repairing or replacing some 3,400 miles of mains and gas lines, has a new tool in its arsenal: a robot that can do the job about three times faster, without any need to turn off the gas.

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