TECO Florida Gas Outage Impacts Thousands of Residents, Businesses

Many Southwest Florida residents and businesses are still waiting for TECO Peoples Gas to restore their natural gas service, following a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Southwest-Florida-Gas-Outage-Restaurant-Loss-Of-Income-Business">major gas line break last Thursday. TECO is warning that it could be the end of the week before gas service is fully restored to thousands of customers in Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Naples and Bonita Springs.

The TECO Peoples Gas outage occurred when a heavy-equipment operator working on a road widening project in Lee County hit an eight-inch natural gas line, causing an explosion. The accident could have been avoided, according to the Lee County Department of Transportation, if a contractor had maintained markers of the gas line’s location. According to various media reports, the gas line that exploded had been temporarily relocated for the widening of Colonial Boulevard. The relocated gas line was marked with yellow PVC pipes, sticking out of the ground by about 4 feet, but some of those markers later disappeared.

On Monday TECO told the contractor working on the road project that the gas company would be out Friday to replace the markers. However, Florida and federal laws still require contractors to know where all underground utilities are located before starting an excavation, whether they are marked or not.

The gas outage affected some 1,200 residential and 6,000 commercial TECO customers in Southwestern Florida. While TECO was able to restore natural gas service to a handful of customers, including hospitals, by the weekend, the majority of commercial customers were left without service. Restaurants where especially hard hit. They had been expecting a lucrative weekend, as several events, including the 2010 American Sand Sculpting Championship and Beach Festival on Fort Myers Beach and the 22nd Roy Hobbs World Series, an adult baseball tournament, had brought thousands of tourists to the area for the weekend.

According to various media reports, TECO had already told some of its commercial customers that it would not be providing compensation for their losses.

Unlike electricity, which can be restored by repairing a single power line, natural gas requires several steps to restore service. First, each customer’s gas service has to be shut off and locked down by a representative of the gas company. Next, the gas mains have to be repressurized to the appropriate level and inspected. Then, TECO crews will visit each customer and ensure service is restored and pilot lights are relit. Customers must be on the premise in order for this to be completed. Last night, TECO said it had visited about 85 percent of its affected customers to complete only the first step.

Restaurants and other businesses impacted by TECO’s gas outage can receive assistance with business interruption claims <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Southwest-Florida-Gas-Outage-Restaurant-Loss-Of-Income-Business">here.

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