Investigator | Dominion East Ohio admits mistake after explosion

CLEVELAND -- Dominion East Ohio now admits it never ordered an excavation work order to shut off an outdoor valve at a home on West 83rd Street in Cleveland that exploded and damaged nearly six dozen properties.

Company spokesman Neil Durbin said shortly after the explosion that the excavation work wasn't scheduled until a day after the explosion.

But an affidavit from the the Ohio Underground Protection Service says the gas company never asked for a work order, also known as an OUPS ticket in the industry.

The affidavit is part of a court file in a lawsuit against Dominion East and others that wrapped up last month.

According to the document, "There are no records, documents or materials on file ... which demonstrate that Dominion East Ohio gave notice as to any excavation work" on the four days preceding the explosion.

Read more | Home explosion could have been prevented --

Mark McDonald, a natural gas expert and owner of NatGas consulting, called it "a pretty serious mistake."

McDonald investigated the blast at the request of DuWest Tool and Die, which sued Dominion.

The plaintiff's attorney said in a brief statement that the gas company reached a confidential settlement following the verdict in favor of the plaintiffs.

McDonald called the presence of gas blowing inside the vacant home on Jan. 21, 2010, an emergency situation.

"You have a serious condition. A house full of gas, which is vacant. You just can't walk away, close the door and cross your fingers," he said.

McDonald says the gas company should have performed an emergency excavation to reach the outside shutoff at the curb valve. Dominion said it turned off gas inside the home but was unable to turn off the gas at the street.

When pressed to explain why the company said it applied for an OUPS ticket when records showed it had not, Durbin dodged the question twice before answering.

"I made an incorrect assumption four years ago that we had applied for an OUPS ticket. I checked with our operations people and they confirmed with me that we had not, indeed, applied for an OUPS ticket.

Durbin explained in an email that the gas company had checked the service line and found no leaks.

"Hence, the situation was not considered an emergency," Durbin said.

McDonald said a house full of gas is "an emergency if I've ever seen one."


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