Friday, October 21, 2011
Contact: Bob Innes
(804) 768-6410
(804) 512-1425 - cellular

Thefts Can Create Significant Safety Risks to Surrounding Homes

CHESTER, VA – Oct. 21, 2011 - Columbia Gas of Virginia is asking customers to be vigilant for possible thefts of copper piping from vacant homes and tampering with natural gas meters.

As a result of the price of scrap copper, homes and businesses are experiencing increased incidents in the theft of copper pipe and wiring, with thieves often breaking into vacant premises and removing piping and wiring. While copper piping is most often used for water lines, copper pipe was at times used for natural gas lines in homes. Thieves do not discriminate and will remove pipe regardless of whether it is a water or natural gas line.

“The theft of piping from a home or business can create a very dangerous situation,” said Columbia Gas General Manager Dan Cote. “This pipe carries natural gas to the appliances in the home or business, and when this pipe is improperly removed, natural gas flows into the premises, creating a hazardous situation in the building and the surrounding area.”

Columbia Gas is encouraging anyone with vacant property -- including real estate agents and homeowners leaving on an extended holiday -- to either make arrangements for the premises to be monitored by a neighbor or contact Columbia Gas to temporarily disconnect service. 

"We would much rather send a technician to a vacant home and turn off the natural gas service at the meter, knowing the building and surrounding area will remain safe should a theft of pipe occur,” said Cote. "At the same time, however, we understand that this may be an inconvenience for some people and simply ask them and their neighbors to be vigilant."

Customers are asked to be aware of unrecognized vehicles in their neighborhoods, particularly at homes known to be vacant, and to contact the police should they have any concerns.

Columbia Gas is also encouraging customers to be aware of tampering with natural gas meters.

“Tampering with or bypassing a natural gas meter is a dangerous and illegal act,” said Cote. “When meters are tampered with or illegal connections are installed to divert natural gas into a home or business, this presents a significant safety issue for our customers, communities and employees.”

Common signs of theft of service

• Tools jammed in meter;
• Missing or broken meter seal;
• Anyone other than a Columbia Gas employee working on a meter;
• Tubes running from in-ground piping;
• A meter missing the index that displays natural gas usage; and/or
• Odor of natural gas.

Customers who suspect theft of natural gas service are encouraged to contact Columbia Gas immediately at 1.800.543.8911. If customers notice an odor (similar to rotten eggs) of natural gas, they should immediately leave the area and from a safe location call 911, then call the Columbia Gas 24-hour emergency number 1.800.544.5606.