The PUCO has ordered Dominion East Ohio pay a $500,000 fine and take steps to ensure compliance with federal natural gas pipeline safety standards following last year's fires and explosions.
FAIRPORT HABOR, Ohio - A yet-to-be-determined fluid found in natural gas lines might have led to an Ice buildup inside two safety valves. The clogged valves led to high gas pressure that triggered several furnace fires and a house explosion in Fairport Harbor Monday.
The safety or regulator valves are inside a utility box at the regulator station on High Street in Fairport Harbor.
The PUCO said preliminary reports show ice build up inside two gas pressure regulator valves prevented the valves from working including a back up valve. That led to a build up of natural gas pressure inside some homes.
The station where the mishap occurred has been shut down during the investigation.
Officials from Dominion East Ohio and the PUCO told NewsChannel5's Paul Kiska Wednesday the fluid should not have been in the lines and they're trying to determine what the fluid is.
Matt Butler with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio said investigators want to know if there's a problem with parts from the manufacturer, human error or a maintenance issue. Butler said ice should not have been in the valves or lines because drying agents are added to natural gas during production.
"An initial inspection of the regulator station indicated the presence of pipeline fluids," Dominion East said in a news release. "However, we also are reviewing other factors, such as station design, impact of temperature, impact of moisture, etc. before we expect to be able to reach a conclusion."
"Dominion East Ohio continues working today with local and state fire investigators, along with Public Utilities Commission of Ohio investigators, to determine the specific cause of pressure surge," Dominion said in the release. "The investigation is ongoing and no cause has been determined yet."
Meanwhile, Lake County Emergency Management Director Larry Greene said the agency contacted 1,500 homes with a reverse 911 evacuation alert Monday. But 306 did not get the safety message because those homes only have cell phones.
Greene recommends residents have at least one basic wall phone that's not cordless because if the power goes out, the phone will still dial 911 and receive calls.