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MLGW and Code Enforcement back and forth over gas line guidelines leaves residents without heat and gas for 22 days

"When light, gas and water came out to do their test, they were not satisfied with the results," Code Enforcements Ron Bethea said.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Residents at the River City Heights Townhomes have their heat and all gas utilities reinstalled after almost a month without either. 

From December 13, 2022, through Jan 4, 2023, the townhome complexes dealt with back and forth between Memphis Light, Gas and Water and code enforcement over whether the gas line could be unlocked due to multiple issues.

Shelby County Code Enforcement’s Ron Bethea said his team performed all necessary tests and apartment complex passed.

“[We] did what [MLGW] calls a drop test, and I don’t know if there had been modifications since the time of our air test, but we confirmed that there was no drop in pressure during the duration of the test. But when [MLGW] came out, they felt like there was a drop,” Bethea said.

MLGW didn’t add much to what Bethea said, other than they went out to the apartment complex numerous times, saying the customer failed the drop test on both December 22 and December 28.

“On December 28, Industrial Gas Technicians returned, the customer failed the drop test again along the walkthrough inspections,” MLGW’s Gale Jones Carson said.

Code Enforcement informed ABC24 that they abide by the 2021 International Fuel Code for their requirements on gas pressure, and MLGW said they abide by their own guidelines but did not specify what those guidelines are.

Carson said she said she didn’t know where the heaters with gas leaks were located but that it’s a safety hazard and prevented MLGW from unlocking the gas line. When asking if the back and forth between MLGW, contractors, and code enforcement was normal, the short answer was no.

“I wouldn’t characterize this as normal, normally a single air test is all that’s required,” Bethea said. “For whatever reason, we observed the gauge for the duration of the test - there was no noticeable deflection during the test. When light, gas and water came out to do their test, they were not satisfied with the results and that necessitated additional tests.”

Not only were the number of drop tests abnormal, but this apartment complex is one of only a few in Memphis with one main gas line. It’s mostly underground and connects to 115 units, making it difficult to isolate issues.

Code enforcement’s Bethea said he’s working to speak with the property owner so they can set up an avenue to make fixing any future gas issues a smoother process.

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