Independent Expert to Test Massachusetts Propane Supply Under Agreement Reached by Attorney General Coakley and State Fire Marshal
Since those offices first issued an advisory on September 2 raising concerns about non-odorized propane, the Commonwealth and the company have taken steps to identify the scope of any potential risk to public safety. With this agreement, all parties will have the benefit of a third party expert to conduct testing, reconstruct the distribution of propane supply through the Westfield terminal, and assess the potential risk to the public.
"This is an important step to better identify the scope of this problem and work to protect the public," AG Coakley said. "We are pleased that DCP has cooperated with our offices because it is critical that we have an independent person examine the facts and help us determine whether additional steps should be taken to warn consumers and downstream distributors."
State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said, "This is a major step forward but until we are able to fully identify the scope and extent of the problem I remain concerned. I would remind people to be extremely cautious when using propane because if a leak does occur, they may not have the early warning of the smell from the odorant."
The agreement also establishes the conditions that must be met for DCP to re-open its Westfield propane distribution facility, which has been shuttered since the end of August when odorization concerns first came to the attention of the Fire Marshal. Before the facility is reopened, the third party expert will verify the proper odorization of DCP's current supply. DCP has also agreed to enhanced testing for odorization of each rail car of propane received at its Westfield terminal prior to off-loading, with the testing initially carried out by the independent examiner.
Under the agreement, Roger Craddock and the Houston-based firm of Engineering Systems, Inc. will serve as the independent examiner and begin testing propane supplies sold this summer out of DCP's Westfield, Massachusetts terminal. The independent examiner also will conduct additional sample testing of certain downstream customers of DCP, and will examine records and interview employees at the Westfield terminal, all toward the goal of identifying whether and when non-odorized propane may have been sold in Massachusetts. DCP agreed to cover all costs of the independent examiner's investigation.
The issue first came to the attention of public safety officials through an investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Office when it was determined that insufficient levels of odorant, used to warn people of possible gas leaks, were found in propane gas distributed from DCP Midstream's propane facility in Westfield. The lack of odorant does not make the propane more or less dangerous, it is solely a warning sign to inform people that there is a leak.
On September 2, AG Coakley, Fire Marshal Coan, and the Massachusetts State Police announced immediate steps to address the problem, including:
- Immediate testing of 56 distribution centers, six of which were found to have insufficient levels of odorant. Those six facilities were shut down until the matter could be corrected.
- Working with all parties to begin a notification process to all customers impacted by the potential faulty odorant.
- Contacting DCP Midstream to take steps to independently verify the scope of the problem, which resulted in today's agreement.
- Notifying other Northeast states that may have also received faulty shipments of propane.
The State Fire Marshal's Office also issued the following consumer advice:
If you use piped propane inside your home, you are advised to take extra precautions:
- Contact your distributor to see if your delivery is part of the affected propane. Remember that not all propane in Massachusetts is affected, only some.
- Do not smoke indoors or near propane tanks.
- If you have a power outage, use flashlights and battery-operated candles instead of traditional flame candles.
- Consider purchasing a gas detector (it could cost approximately $60).
- Do NOT attempt to inspect your system yourself. That could create a leak that did not previously exist. Work with your local delivery company.
If you are cooking with an LP-Gas grill tank that was filled since May 1, take extra precautions:
- Make sure connections are tight.
- Use outdoors only.
- Use ten feet away from building.
- Do not use on balconies above the first floor.
The New England Propane Gas association has provided a contact number for customers of propane gas who have questions about their service or for testing of tanks. Customers can call 888-445-1075 or visit online at www.pgane.org.
For additional information please visit the Attorney General's website at www.mass.gov/ago/propane.