NEW DETAILS: Vectren gas line problem prompts door-to-door repair work in Dayton

UPDATE @ 1:51 p.m. (Oct. 21):

Vectren is still working to restore service to its final customers after Thursday’s outage that affected 2,200.                                                                                                                     
At least 300 customers remain without service, said Chase Kelley, Vectren vice president, marketing and communications.

UPDATE: Vectren has restored service to 700 of the 2,200 customers affected in the Linden Heights area, said Chase Kelley, Vectren vice president, marketing and communications.

“We believe we can restore the vast majority by midnight today if all customers remain home and we can gain access,” said Kelley on Saturday.

He said the company has provided hotel rooms for a handful of residents who requested them.

EARLIER: Vectren workers continued to go door-to-door through a southeast Dayton neighborhood Friday to purge natural gas lines for 2,200 customers to prevent potential explosions or fires such as those that plagued a Massachusetts area last month.

MORE: Vectren to start restoring power to 2,200 customers today

Workers here on Wednesday inadvertently injected compressed air into gas lines that were actively serving customers in the Linden Heights area, the company said.

“At that time, field personnel made the decision to shut down a large portion of the entire system … to ensure the compressed air is completely purged from the system as a safety precaution and to ensure reliability going forward,” said Chase Kelley, Vectren vice president for marketing and communications. “To do this, all meters, most of which are indoors, were shut off.”

The door-to-door effort will continue today, but the company said some customers could remain without service through the weekend.

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On Sept. 13, lines owned by Columbia Gas caused a series of explosions and fires occurred in as many as 40 homes, with more than 80 individual fires, in the Massachusetts towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. The explosions caused one death and left more than two dozen people with serious injuries.

Vectren has taken note of the disaster in Massachusetts, Kelley said, and will continue to update and monitor and equipment, as well as perform gas line replacement projects like the one in the Linden Heights area, in order to maintain safety.

“Our focus will always be on the safety of our customers and employees when it comes to delivering reliable natural gas,” Kelley said. “We have and will continue to use the publicly available information from the incident that took place in Massachusetts to further examine our system and procedures and share best practices for a wide variety of operations activities, including pipeline modernization programs, over-pressurization protection and system monitoring.”

Vectren was in the area initially to perform gas main replacement work.

MORE: Ohio energy companies spend nearly $7 billion to replace aging pipelines

The four major energy companies in Ohio — Vectren, Duke Energy, Columbia Gas and Dominion East Ohio — all have programs to replace bare steel and cast iron pipelines, a mandate by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

To replace more than 11,000 miles of main lines and service lines delivering natural gas to homes, the energy companies have spent a combined total of $3.8 billion through 2016 and project to spend $3.1 billion more dollars to complete the work, according to data provided by PUCO.

The work is necessary because bare steel and cast iron pipelines are “prone to corrosion and leaking,” PUCO spokesman Matt Schilling said.

“We feel good that Ohio has been working on replacing aging infrastructure for years now,” Schilling said. “What happened in Massachusetts just underscores the importance of what these companies are working on.”

Vectren shut off the gas meters to nearly 900 Linden Heights customers Wednesday and expected to have all 2,200 customers there turned off by the end of the day Friday.

After that, workers will begin purging gas throughout the system, then re-energize the gas mains, Kelley said. Next, Vectren will begin turning on all gas meters and restoring service to customers.

“We will again knock on doors and ask for permission to turn on the meter, relight the pilot lights, and ensure gas service is working properly,” Kelley said, “So this obviously requires access to the home or business.”

The entire process of fixing gas delivery should not cast doubt on its safety, according to Vectren officials.

“This gas network is and will remain a safe, reliable energy delivery system, and this process conducted over the past two days will ensure no additional outages – due to compressed air — occur as the heating season gets underway,” Kelley said. “As always, customers who smell gas in their home at any time should exit immediately and call Vectren or 911 from an alternate location.”

The repair work being done in Linden Heights will have a significant price tag attached to it.

“There will be significant costs associated with this restoration work given the 24-hour work, the number of external resources used, etc. However, that hasn’t been tallied and certainly not our focus for now as we want to get all restored as soon as possible,” Kelley said.

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