SCOTTSDALE (3TV/CBS 5) - It's been nearly a month since the more than 100 seniors at Riviera 55+ Mobile Home Park have been without gas.

That means no hot water, no heat and no using gas stoves.

The Arizona Corporation Commission, in conjunction with Southwest Gas, shut off the gas lines on Friday, Nov. 9, because of safety concerns. ACC officials explained it's too dangerous to turn everything back on until the property owner rebuilds the gas system so that each home has its own meter.

Riviera Mobile Home Park is on a master meter system which means it's the property owner's responsibility to make the fix, not the utility company.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Gas leak leads to 10-day gas shutdown for Scottsdale seniors]

"If there is a leak in a natural gas line, there is imminent risk of fire," explained ACC spokeswoman Holly Ward.

"If there is an unsafe system, we have to shut the system down," explained commissioner Boyd Dunn.

The property owner is helping residents deal with the inconvenience by providing hot showers and meals at the clubhouse. The clubhouse is not affected by the damaged gas lines.

According to park management, an estimated 17 units of the estimated 150 occupied lots are electric. Those units are not affected by the gas shutoff.

This is just one example of what can happen with properties that operate on an aging master meter system. Master meter systems, installed before 1980, distribute natural gas to several units on a property.

PROBLEM: The Arizona Corporation Commission visually shows the problem with gas master meters

PROBLEM: The Arizona Corporation Commission visually shows the problem with gas master meters

According to the ACC, as of January 2018, there are nearly 1,000 schools, churches, hospitals, prisons and retirement communities in Arizona that could end up like Riviera Mobile Home Park.

[APP USERS: Map of AZ places at risk because of master meter system]

Of the 1,000 properties, an estimated 90 of them were forced to shut down this year because of gas leaks. Ward explained all but six have had their gas restored.

The six that continue to have no gas because of safety concerns include:

     * Winslow Prison

     * Riviera Mobile Home Park

     * Park Paloma Apartment

     * Holiday Apartments

     * Rivers Edge Mobile Home Park

     * Canyon Palms Apartments

While that ACC said there's potential for more issues, it is taking a proactive approach.

On Nov. 7, 2018 -- two days before the gas to Riviera Mobile Home Park was cut off -- commissioners approved and began implementing a new policy that requires all master meter systems to upgrade their pipes to bring them into compliance with state and federal laws. 

"You've heard in states outside of Arizona, have had some explosions and things of that sort. We don't want that to occur in Arizona, so we're always conscious of making certain our pipes are safe," said Dunn.

The ACC said property owners of master meter properties have a five-year grace period to upgrade their pipes.

SOLUTION: The Arizona Corporation Commission visually shows what master meter properties need to do to fix issues

If nothing is done by 2023, consequences could include fines or court action, according to ACC.

The owner of Riviera Mobile Home Park in Scottsdale told us by phone that he's doing everything he can to bring the property into compliance. So far, he's hired a contractor and hopes to have part of the park's gas pipes fixed and turned back on by Christmas.

He said he understands park residents' frustrations, but is doing everything he can to move the process along faster.

He has offered them gas credits on their utility bills. On Thanksgiving, the park management even provided a Thanksgiving meal, making deliveries to residents who are homebound.

In the meantime, some seniors don't think it's fair.

"It's frustrating," said Lee Powers who is concerned about older residents who are homebound. "Showers are probably the worst part cause you have to leave your house every day for showering."

Even though they can use the clubhouse for showers and cooking their meals, they explained it's inconvenient and should never have happened in the first place.

Other residents like Susie Brabson are more patient and have the attitude "it could be worse."

Brabson is thankful she doesn't live in a colder part of the country right now.

She believes management is doing everything they can to make residents comfortable and fix the issue as soon as possible. She thinks the hardship has brought the community together and that neighbors are helping neighbors.

So how do you know if you live at place that uses a master meter? Dunn suggests it's best for tenants to check in with their property owners and ask. If they're not able to get any answers or if tenants have concerns, they're encouraged to call the Arizona Corporation Commission which is the agency that regulates and decides if your gas gets turned on or shut off: https://www.azcc.gov/

Dunn also explained it'll be up to the property owners to finance the upgrades. If for some reason they can't do that, it's possible the commission could consider a rate hike to pay for the changes.

[APP USERS: Search AZ places at risk of because of master meter system]

[DOWNLOAD: Spreadsheet from ACC]

 


Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

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