Post Your Problems/Lawrence Walsh: Call to Equitable yields answer

Mt. Lebanon man battles gas leak

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Alan J. Fox didn't think Equitable Gas Co. was responding properly to a gas leak in the front of his home on Woodhaven Drive in Mt. Lebanon.

So he sent a letter to the company and mailed copies to the Public Utility Commission and the Post-Gazette "for any help [the] paper can give in this matter."

"Equitable Gas has given no indication that it intends to repair the leak in the near future," he wrote. "To the contrary, Equitable Gas appears to be satisfied to let the leak remain without repair."

Mr. Fox, 83, said the gas fumes were "spreading toward the house as evidenced by the dead grass in the main lawn. The grass between the curb and the sidewalk has already died, and the base of a newly planted tree at the curb shows signs of gas contamination.

"In addition to the hazard presented by the gas leak, there are inherent economic costs," he added.

"There is the cost of trying to rejuvenate the lawn by removing the dead grass and re-seeding. There is also the impact of not being able to sell the house at fair market value with an obvious gas leak."

Mr. Fox lives in a two-story brick house with a slate roof that was built on an 11,902-square-foot lot in 1930. The total living area of 2,439 square feet includes five bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and two fireplaces. There's also a two-car garage. The fair market value is listed at $226,900.

He concluded his letter by telling the company and the PUC to consider it as "a definitive formal request for Equitable Gas to repair this hazard."

I called Scott Waitlevertch, external communications and governmental relations manager for Equitable. He gave me his email address so I could convert Mr. Fox's letter into an email and send it to him. Emails enable everyone to be on the same page.

When he got back to me less than 24 hours later, Mr. Waitlevertch had good news for Mr. Fox.

"We're replacing about 1,700 feet of our 4-inch main line on his street and another 150 feet on a side street," he said. The project, which will affect about 60 customers, is being done by the M O'Herron Co. of Bloomfield, a contractor that specializes in utility work.

Mr. Waitlevertch said the work should be completed by mid- to late-October, weather permitting.

He said Equitable responded immediately to Mr. Fox's call about a leak. He said company employees determined it to be a Class Two leak that didn't require immediate repair or action. Gas companies have up to a year to repair Class Two or Class Three leaks.

"We performed all the safety checks and have been constantly monitoring the site," Mr. Waitlevertch said.

"We understand his concern," he added. "We'll restore his yard and, if necessary, replace his tree. We'll reach out to him and make sure he is completely satisfied."

In addition to Mr. Fox and his neighbors, Equitable Gas provides natural gas service to about 275,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers primarily in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Information: www.equitablegas.com.

yourbiz - larrywalsh

Lawrence Walsh can be reached at pyp@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1895. Include your day, evening and cell phone numbers. Due to volume, he cannot respond to every email and call.


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