Lance Horton discusses TECO's progress
Naples City Hall welcomes TECO for a ...
GAS LINE EXPLOSION - MULTIMEDIA
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NAPLES — Naples City Council wanted answers.
And on Wednesday council members got some from officials with TECO People’s Gas.
On Nov. 11, 6,000 residential and 1,200 commercial customers lost service after a construction worker driving a bulldozer damaged an 8-inch natural gas line. That damage caused an explosion and a major break in natural gas service in Southwest Florida.
Dozens of Naples-area restaurants were without service over the weekend, and city officials said Wednesday they were left to field calls and e-mails from community members asking for help.
Lance Horton, a senior project manager with TECO and 38-year veteran in the natural gas industry, told council members the company followed an emergency plan it filed with the state’s public services commission, and worked quickly to notify city and county officials of the break.
Council members Wednesday questioned why no backup system was in place to prevent an outage of this magnitude.
Councilman John Sorey said many natural gas companies have redundancies in place in order to prevent large-scale outages, but Horton said those redundancies aren’t in place in Southwest Florida.
“Looping is not practical. We would have to run a line from the top of Lee (County) to the bottom of Collier (County) to create a back up system,” Horton said. “Economically it is not a possibility at this time (because) there is no significant load for this expenditure.”
Horton said there are some opportunities to put a backup system in some parts of the coverage district, but it would be a “costly endeavor” to create a back up feed in an area where there are a small number of customers.
That doesn’t mean such a system wouldn’t exist in the future. When asked by Councilman Doug Finlay whether future expansion would lead to backup systems, Horton said it would be a possibility.
“For an 8-inch (line) to have a complete gas feed, we’d have to have a significant customer in southern Collier County for that to occur,” Horton said.
TECO officials said Wednesday the majority of commercial residents across the affected area had service, and the company was shifting its focus to residential customers.
“We’re at 75 percent (of customers) restored in the impacted area, and nearly 100 percent in the city,” said Lance Horton, a senior project manager with the company. “We have been to every business and residence in the city of Naples ... some we can’t get in, so we have to follow up on.”
TECO officials were expected to restore service in several Collier County communities on Tuesday, and Horton said Wednesday that focus would continue until all customers were reconnected.
In order to restore service, crews need to enter a customer’s home or business to turn back on service and light the pilot lights. That means someone needs to be home at the time of the service call.
The company is using an auto-dial phone system to keep customers up-to-date with when a representative is going to be in the area, as well as other news of the outage. It’s also something, Horton said, the company will “continue to do ... until we’re complete.”
But Horton said Wednesday it was “hard to say at this point” when full service would be restored.