Federal investigators have concluded that a 2017 natural gas explosion in Manor Township that killed a utility worker likely happened because of a part improperly installed in 1998, according to a final report released Wednesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board report said it determined the probable cause of the explosion was "an improperly installed mechanical tapping tee that leaked and allowed gas to migrate into the house where it ignited."
The report also says the board "does not assign fault or blame for an accident or incident" and that law prohibits such reports in civil lawsuits "for damages resulting from a matter mentioned in the report."
The explosion on July 2, 2017, killed 54-year-old UGI employee Richard Bouder and injured three other workers — two from UGI and one from the Lancaster Area Sewer Authority. The home was destroyed and six neighboring ones damaged, including one that was later condemned, according to the report.
A written statement from UGI said it cooperated fully with the NTSB and — during the incident and afterward — "complied with all regulatory requirements regarding the safe and reliable operation of company facilities."
"Since that time, UGI has proactively undertaken efforts to enhance and expand Company-wide safety initiatives," it said, listing activities such as "training opportunities for fire department and other first responders, expanding employee safety awareness; development of an enhanced company safety culture; refined safety policies; increased focus on utilization of Incident Command System (ICS) protocols; and enhanced cooperation with electric utilities operating within the UGI service territory to eliminate potential sources of ignition during response to natural gas incidents."
The NTSB report said a locking sleeve used to connect the Permalock tee to the gas main was not attached to the main, putting extra stress on four nylon bolts, two of which fractured.
LNP previously reported that UGI said fewer than 19,000 PermaLock devices were installed on its systems between 1997 and 2006, and that UGI stopped using the PermaLock tee about 10 years ago.
UGI remediated or replaced about 4,000 PermaLock tee assemblies since 2007 and more than 1,000 had been remediated or replaced since the Manor Township incident, the NTSB said in June. The final report said between July 2 and Oct. 4, UGI remediated or replaced 2,577 tees.
In October the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement filed a civil suit asking for more than $2 million in penalties against UGI and alleging UGI’s procedures at the time of the explosion were deficient.
The company filed a heavily redacted response denying the all of the commission’s allegations.
That lawsuit is still pending, according to the commission.
A separate wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the UGI worker's widow against Honeywell International Inc., Contractor's Group Inc., PPL Corporation and PPL Electric Utilities Corporation is also still pending, according to court records.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
UGI's full statement:
UGI Utilities, Inc. (UGI) is aware of the report published today, on the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) website, regarding an incident that occurred in Millersville, PA on July 2, 2017 involving UGI facilities. UGI has cooperated fully with the NTSB in its investigation of this incident. Previously, UGI carefully reviewed the NTSB Preliminary Incident Report, published in August 2017; as well as the NTSB Safety Recommendation Report on mechanical tapping tee devices, published in June 2018.
During its response to the incident in July of 2017 and throughout the Company’s activities that occurred in the area after the incident, UGI complied with all regulatory requirements regarding the safe and reliable operation of Company facilities.
Since that time, UGI has proactively undertaken efforts to enhance and expand Company-wide safety initiatives. UGI efforts include such activities as: training opportunities for fire department and other first responders, expanding employee safety awareness; development of an enhanced Company safety culture; refined safety policies; increased focus on utilization of Incident Command System (ICS) protocols; and enhanced cooperation with electric utilities operating within the UGI service territory to eliminate potential sources of ignition during response to natural gas incidents.
UGI Utilities remains fully committed to the safe operation of its system, and to the safe and reliable delivery of energy to our customers and to the many communities we serve.