CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It could take more than a week for Mountaineer Gas to restore service to all 1,100 customers on Charleston’s West Side who lost gas following the flooding of the utility’s distribution system.
West Virginia American Water Company experienced a water main break last Friday which sent water into Mountaineer’s low pressure system that supplies gas to homes and businesses. The water pressure from the break was so powerful it bore a hole in the Mountaineer Gas main line sending thousands of gallons of water through the line from Patrick Street to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mountaineer Gas Senior Vice President Moses Skaff said the only way to get he water out of the line is to drain it.
“We have to literally drill holes in our line to get the water out and then fix our holes and then re-energize the line,” Skaff told MetroNews Monday.
The utility has more than 100 workers and contractors on the job.
All customer meters are turned off and restoration will require door-to-door visits to make sure it’s safe to restore service, Skaff said.
“We have to go door-to-door, making sure there’s no water in their line and then we have to go into their households and relight their furnaces, stoves, etc.,” Skaff said. “Unfortunately that’s going to take a while.”
Skaff said it could be 7-10 days before service is restored to all customers.
Charleston resident Jules Torco lives in Jarrett Terrace. He said it’s cold at night.
“We’ve not had no heat for days and it’s very devastating,” Torco told MetroNews. “That means we have no heat and it’s cold. We have not hot weather so we can’t bathe. It’s very devastating.”
Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin released a statement Monday following call with representatives of both Mountaineer Gas and West Virginia American Water.
“I have asked both companies for immediate, thorough, and accurate communication to be delivered to our residents and businesses on the West Side,” Goodwin said. “Our residents are understandably infuriated about the lack of information that has been provided to them about the restoration of their gas service.”
Goodwin said her office began responding after learning of the situation Friday evening. She said they worked with the Red Cross to establish a warming shelter over the weekend but no one took advantage of it. She said the North Charleston Community Center and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center was open Monday for anyone wanting a warm shower.
Torco said he and his neighbors will just have to keep dealing with the situation.
“We need to fix it,” he said. “It’s a serious problem and it needs to be fixed.”
Skaff said they’ll be working around the clock including providing updates to the media and customers twice a day along with working with organizations who provide services to those impacted. He said safety for their customers is the top priority.
“We understand fully that it’s an inconvenience but our main objective is to provide safe, reliable services. I’ve never in my 32 years had a situation like this with so much water into a line that we’ve had,” Skaff said.
Kanawha County Schools said Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School would be closed again Tuesday because of the problems.
Mountaineer Gas urges its customers to follow these guidelines:
• Do not attempt to restore natural gas services on their own.
• If the customer smells natural gas, move to a safe place, and please call 1-800-834-2070 and 911.
• Use caution when using supplemental space heaters.