PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Southwest Gas had a meeting with the Arizona Corporation Commission today to discuss the causes of three major recent gas leaks, where some led to explosions and fires.
"I see no greater calling as a commissioner than to protect Arizonans from incidents such as what occurred in Chandler on August 26, 2021," said commissioner Sandra Kennedy. "We cannot allow Arizonans to be afraid of the pipe below their very feet."
In August, there was an explosion at Platinum Printing in Chandler that injured four people.
"Platinum Printing was not connected up to any natural gas before this explosion," said attorney Tom Ryan. "That pipe that was installed was a pipe that wasn't supposed to be used because it had a tendency to degrade early, especially in super heated areas like Arizona."
Southwest Gas states that an "error in the construction records misidentified the type of gas pipe" used near Platinum Printing, which resulted in that pipe section not being included in the replacement efforts.
Ryan is representing the two brothers who own Platinum Printing and were severely burned in the explosion.
"Southwest gas has some explaining to do and I think it would be wise for Southwest Gas to really re-evaluate the pipes that are out there and to begin the process of removing them," Ryan said. "To leave this pipe in the ground and not know which pipe is out there even like in this situation, it puts every Arizonan at risk. That's not good for Southwest Gas, and more importantly it's not safe for us."
Southwest Gas says the pipe in reference is a DriscoPipe 8000 or "m8000" and they've been working to replace these kinds of plastic pipes in the desert for the last seven years after an explosion in 2014. This type of pipe was installed between 1980 and 2001.
"In summary, the company has decided to treat all the plastic pipe installed between 1999 and 2001 as m8000 pipe. All this pipe has been introduced into m8000 pipe protocols and mitigation measures," said a representative of Southwest Gas.
Southwest Gas says the pipe that caused the Chandler explosion was mislabeled, and therefore not in their mitigation system.
"If they had been accurate, then they would have had the increased attention under our current practices and would have been taken care of before," Southwest gas said. "As long as the pipe is in the program, we feel very confident that the risk is mitigated."
Another major event they focused on was a gas leak that evacuated a Scottsdale neighborhood. Southwest Gas said this was also due to a DriscoPipe 8000 that was inactive, however it was not properly mapped in their system.
"Had the service been properly identified in the company's mapping system, it would have been part of the mitigation efforts that have been implemented by the company," Southwest Gas told the ACC.
The other event is the 7th Avenue bridge fire that closed down the bridge for several months after a massive fire. The gas company says that gas leak was caused by a connector that had been tampered with or vandalized.