Feds: Cause of gas leak tied to home blast may be widespread problem

Lancaster

Federal investigators say a natural gas connector was incorrectly installed at a Manor Township home leveled by an explosion that also killed a UGI employee last year, and the problem may be a widespread safety issue.

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a safety recommendation report as it continues to investigate the cause of the July 2 blast at 206 Springdale Lane. 

The explosion killed a UGI technician, 54-year-old Richard Bouder, and injured three other people. Two nearby residences were severely damaged and condemned for demolition.

The safety agency says similar problems were found at the sites of two other gas explosions, including one that destroyed a West Lampeter Township home in September 2006.

In addition, UGI has been working to identify gas leaks caused by incorrectly installed tee assemblies and, as of June 12, has found 19 in its distribution system, according to the report. None of those leaks resulted in injuries or property damage.

Perfection Corporation, later known as Elster Perfection Corporation, a division of Honeywell, manufactured the PermaLock mechanical tapping tee assembly involved in both Lancaster County accidents.

Since 1987, three versions of the PermaLock tee assembly have been manufactured, and millions of the tee assemblies have been sold worldwide, the NTSB said.

The instructions shipped with the tee assembly do not detail how to properly accomplish the installation, particularly when tightening the tee’s Nylon bolts. Tee assemblies recovered from both Lancaster County accidents each had two fractured bolts, and all of the 19 leaks found by UGI were associated with fractured Nylon bolts.

UGI relied solely on the installation instructions provided by Honeywell prior to October 2002, when federal law began to require qualification training for people who install mechanical tapping tees, the report states.

The NTSB said an incorrectly installed tee assembly can leak gas several months, years, or decades after installation.

The safety agency is calling on Honeywell to update its assembly instructions, and it wants the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to work with pipeline regulators to make sure the tee assemblies are correctly installed.

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