South Jersey Gas Fined $300,000 for Pennsville Blast and Fire
The probe by New Jersey utility regulators of the 2015 explosion that blew apart and burned a Pennsville building results in a $300,000 fine for South Jersey Gas (SJG).
The Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) cited violations of the Underground Facility Protection Act (UFPA), tracing the natural gas building that triggered the explosion to a line damaged by a contractor during replacement of an underground main.
Investigators determined that below-ground facilities were not clearly identified and marked. BPU officials characterized the company as being "in probable violation" of applicable regulations.
As part of the settlement, SJG admits no fault or violation of laws, and agrees to corrective steps and procedural changes within six months, in order to finalize the agreement.
The company is required to ensure that its workers and contractors determine, to the furthest possible extent, the number and position of meters inside buildings before upgrading service lines.
Location contractors will be required to find curb boxes and service lines with metal detectors, and to mark them.
SJG workers and contractors will require training to identify and report state and/or federal code violations in structures.
Major replacement projects will require identification of obstructed meters, vents or related apparatus by SJG inspectors conducting physical walk-throughs.
The blast, BPU noted, involved "no fatalities or major injuries," but various reports said that buildings on either side of the office and residential duplex sustained damage, and the fire produced billows of smoke visible for miles as firefighters struggled for several hours to contain it.
The BPU also fined the Henkels & McCoy Group (H&M) $100,000, related unreported damage and unauthorized repairs to a line in Elizabeth in April of this year.
Board investigators determined that the crew tried reparing a service line they damaged without authorization and without notifying 911 or Elizabethtown Gas. H&M admits no wrongdoing and agrees to corrective steps within six months to finalize the ruling.
H&M excavation and trenching workers will be required to attend annual Locate All Utilities and Records Awareness (LAURA) training, which includes actions to be taken when underground facilities are damaged.
Workers undergoing LAURA training would be tested and evaluated by BPU staffers before being permitted to conduct excavation or trenching in New Jersey.
The agency also issued fines totalling $81,000 in 27 cases, mainly violations of the 811 Call Before You Dig program, including failure to call 811 at least three days before excavations, failure to observe safety standards around markings, and failure to adequately mark underground apparatus.