Nearly a month after an explosion at a Chandler strip mall, Southwest Gas executives were called before state regulators to explain how they'll prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.
The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates public utilities, listened to a presentation from Southwest Gas President and CEO John Hester Tuesday afternoon.
Hester and his executive team explained the type of pipe, which was responsible for the August 26 explosion at Platinum Printing and another recent north Scottsdale gas leak, has a history of problems. It’s called Driscopipe 8000, and Southwest Gas installed it in the 1980s and 1990s.
Southwest Gas executives admitted they've known about specific problems with this type of pipe since at least 2010. The type of pipe can prematurely degrade from the inside out in certain situations.
“This typically involved older pipe, that's smaller in diameter, where the pipe has experienced limited or no flow conditions over extended periods of time in elevated temperatures,” Hester said.
Company officials told the commission that paperwork errors meant the pipes had never been labeled as Driscopipe 8000 in their computerized mapping system. As a result, the segments of pipe in the Chandler explosion and Scottsdale leak never showed up on the company's list for additional monitoring and replacement, according to Southwest Gas.
“One accident is too many, and we think we have a strong track record and focus on safety,” Hester said.
Southwest Gas is now promising to review a decade’s worth of backup records to ensure its computer maps correctly label all Driscopipe 8000. They will also treat all plastic pipe installed from 1999 to 2001 as if it is Driscopipe 8000. All Driscopipe 8000 is subject to additional leak monitoring. All unused or “stub” pipes will also be slated for abandonment to eliminate the sections most in danger of leaking.
Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy asked the gas executives what is the probability of another incident like the Chandler explosion occurring.
“When we finalize and implement these additional protocols to address the issues associated with that incident, it should be, in my mind, essentially zero,” Hester said.
Representatives of the four men injured in the Chandler explosion have recently provided ABC15 with updates on their conditions. Platinum Printing owners Andrew and Dillon Ryan are now out of the hospital. They are recuperating at home with their families.
Printing employee Parker Milldebrandt is still hospitalized. Glenn Jordan, who worked at a neighboring business, is also still hospitalized with burn injuries.