UGI Utilities Inc. is among those facing allegations in court stemming from a natural gas explosion in Millersville. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission alleges that the company failed to follow procedures. Many of the details of UGI's full response have been delayed because the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the matter also. The explosion occurred at Springdale Farm, which is a neighborhood development project. One worker was killed, two others were injured and significant property damage was incurred.
In addition to a fatality, the explosion severely impacted several adjacent homes. The estimated total in property losses is well in excess of $1 million. A Local 21 News report says that defects within a product known as Tapping Tree were a primary cause. They stated that the product was linked to several reported leaks and that this information was common in the industry. Pennsylvania gas companies at some point had issued a warning to those who have the product installed. It encouraged confirming that the installation was proper and to consider replacing bolts as needed.
Utility Commission Allegations
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission compliant included some of the following allegations:
- UGI demonstrated a failure to adhere to procedures that prioritize protecting “life and property” and avoiding hazards
- Procedures that were insufficient in handling “underground blowing gas”
- A failure to close the nearest valve and notify the fire department
- The original penalties imposed totaled nearly $4 million
- This penalty was revised according to statutory limits to $2.1 million
Wrongful Death Suit
Kim Bouder, the wife of Richard Bouder, brought a wrongful death action in a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. Mr. Bouder was a UGI worker killed in the blast. The lawsuit alleges that the three companies named as defendants were negligent and reckless. The defendants include Honeywell International Inc., maker of the Tapping Tee, PPL Corporation, and Contractors Group Inc.
Defective & Hazardous Condition
The Tapping Tee was designed, created and distributed by Honeywell. The product used nylon bolts that were insufficient in strength and were unable to safely control gas leaks. These bolts were shown to “fail, fatigue, and fracture” under normal and expected conditions. The claim asserts that the company demonstrated a lack of regard for “health, safety, and well-being.” These defects are alleged to have been the cause of the injuries and death of Bouder.
Other Allegations of Negligence (UGI)
- A responder arrived at 206 Springdale Lane and remained inside although the natural gas was found to be at an explosive level of 11%
- The resident of the property was also permitted to stay inside amid potentially dangerous conditions
- Despite the potentially dangerous conditions, the resident was not prevented from starting and driving a vehicle from the garage twice
- UGI failed to shut-off the electricity on the street until long after the explosion occurred
- UGI did not contact the fire department until the gas has reached a level that was 20 times higher than what is deemed hazardous
- They mistakenly sought to repair the leak instead of attempting to close the valve that regulated the gas flow