Looking to head off additional incidents related to bad natural gas line couplings, CenterPoint Energy said it has launched a project to remove all couplings in the former Midwest Gas service area that do not meet standards by the end of 2005. The project involves replacing up to 35,000 service lines in 37 Minnesota communities.

An investigation launched by CenterPoint Energy has revealed that from 1959 to 1983, North Central Public Service Co. improperly used metal couplings (that were designed to join steel pipe) to join plastic pipe on some of its residential and commercial service lines. The Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety reached the same conclusion after it investigated the December 2004 building explosion in Ramsey, MN.

North Central Public Service Co. was acquired by Midwest Gas in 1986. In 1993, CenterPoint Energy — formerly Minnegasco — purchased the Minnesota properties of Midwest Gas.

“CenterPoint Energy takes this situation very seriously,” said Tracy Bridge, director of government and public relations. “The safety of our customers and the integrity of our distribution system are our most important priorities. This replacement effort is reflective of that commitment.”

The company said it is currently in the process of finalizing the list of customers who might have an improper coupling installation on their service line. The service lines will be replaced with new plastic (polyethylene) pipe using heat-fused connections. CenterPoint Energy said it will replace its service lines in the least disruptive way using a minimally invasive technique, and will work to restore customer properties to their original condition. The project is currently under way in Buffalo, MN.

CenterPoint Energy said it is looking for customers who:

The company noted that the replacement project does not apply to CenterPoint Energy’s other 725,000 customers.

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