$500,000 Fine in Fairport Harbor Fires

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(Fox 8 file image: Jan 2011)

FAIRPORT HARBOR– Dominion East Ohio is required to pay a $500,000 fine and to take steps to ensure compliance with federal natural gas pipeline safety standards, after fires in Fairport Harbor.

More than a hundred homes were affected by the fires on January 24, 2011. Eleven homes were severely damaged. Estimated damage is $1.3 million.

The penalties are based on The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff’s investigation.

In its investigation, the PUCO staff reported that two low pressure regulating devices at the High Street regulator station in Fairport Harbor had failed due to the presence of pipeline fluids in the devices, which caused the pressure in the system to increase.

PUCO staff concluded that Dominion East Ohio had violated several sections of the Code of Federal Regulations, as well as provisions of the company’s standard operating procedures (SOP) and guidelines.

Dominion East Ohio released this statement Wednesday:

Dominion East Ohio has taken actions to enhance the operational effectiveness and safety of its natural gas delivery system in response to a pipeline safety incident that occurred Jan. 24, 2011, in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio today formally approved a stipulated agreement with Dominion East Ohio to resolve concerns raised in the Commission’s investigation of the incident.

The company based these actions on a comprehensive review of what happened in Fairport Harbor and applied the lessons learned to other areas of Dominion’s gas distribution system. Those actions included taking the affected Fairport Harbor facility out of service, as well as redesigning or retiring all similarly-designed regulating stations, which existed at the time, on the Dominion East Ohio system. The company took the further step of installing remote pressure monitoring equipment covering more than 250 additional district regulating stations.

Dominion East Ohio has worked through this process with the Commission staff in a cooperative manner.  The company’s primary focus remains ensuring that we maintain safe, reliable operation of our distribution system.

In its report of its investigation, PUCO Staff made recommendations to the Commission. After discussions between Dominion and Staff regarding these recommendations, Dominion has agreed to complete the following actions and Staff agreed that completion of the following actions shall satisfy Staff’s recommenda­tions:

  • A review of all low-pressure distribution stations that will result in recommendations for physical improvements to protect against pipeline fluids.
  • Dominion shall ensure that all regulator stations are designed and engineered in accord­ance with state gas pipeline safety rules concerning measurement and regulation facility design and construction
  • Dominion will modify its Standard Operating Procedures to require an inspector to perform an internal inspection of a regulator when pipeline fluids are suspected. 
  • Dominion will develop written procedures to effectively manage fluids in its pipeline system.
  • Dominion will compare its regulator compliance tracking system with its computerized mapping system and reconcile any discrepancies.
  • In addition to making these improvements to ensure public safety, Dominion also has agreed to pay a civil forfeiture of $500,000 within 10 business days.
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