Friday, March 18, 2016

March 18 is Natural Gas Utility Workers Day

Why do we remember March 18? And why does natural gas smell so bad? There's a story behind it. Today is national Natural Gas Utility Workers' Day! March 18 is the date of the New London, Texas school explosion in 1937 that led to the widespread odorization of natural gas and an increased emphasis on safety. We add a rotten egg smell (mercapton) to natural gas, which is normally odorless, so you can detect gas leaks. The New London school was heated with 72 gas heaters. The School Board canceled their natural gas contract to save money and had plumbers install a tap into a residue gas line to extract the natural gas, which would have just been burned off. The connection to the residue line was faulty. Gas built up inside the enclosed crawlspace of the school and was ignited when an electric sander was turned on, causing a spark that ignited the gas-air mixture. The death toll was approximately 295, the third deadliest disaster in Texas history. The Texas legislature mandated within weeks that mercaptan be added to natural gas, the strong odor making leaks quickly detectable. The practice spread worldwide, as did increased awareness of the need for natural gas safety awareness. Safety is now a vital aspect to natural gas distribution. The employees of the Department of Public Utilities endeavor to make natural gas delivery as safe as possible. Our natural gas utility workers work hard every day to keep your home warm, your clothes drying, your food cooking, your showers hot, and your hamburgers grilling.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

2016 Elementary School Rain Barrel Contest

Voting for Most Environmental Message and Most Creative has closed! Stay tuned for the announcement of the winners at Earth Day.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

You Dig? Call 811

Many utility lines are buried underground. Hitting a line while digging or excavating can cause a lot of damage.

Before anyone does any underground digging, a call should be made to the one-call (Miss Utility) center (8-1-1). This one call will contact the owners of the underground facilities (and pipelines) in the immediate area where digging will take place, so that they can mark the location of their facilities pior to excavation. This includes underground natural gas, water, sewer, telephone, cable TV, electric and others.

Excavators are required to allow time for utilities to mark their facilities and are required to take certain precautions when working in the immediate area of underground facilities. The use of mechanized equipment is prohibited within two feet of either side of any utility.

The one-call (Miss Utility) center can provide the specific details of what is required. Failure to comply with this law can jeopardize public safety, and can result in costly damages and substantial fines.

How to Get More Information
Call (Virginia) 811 or 800-552-7001 before you dig, or visit

Capital Improvement Projects Meet Infrastructure Needs, Boosts Economic Development

Capital Improvement Projects (CIPs) allow localities to meet critical infrastructure needs while contributing to economic development. The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) completes and begins many CIP projects that positively impact our customers, as well as the residents and visitors of our region and state.

 In 2009, as part of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Program, DPU began upgrading the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The $156 million series of projects included improvements for the removal of more nitrogen and phosphorous pollutants.

Stormwater improvements on S. Kinsley Avenue

New green alley in the Fan
The Water Treatment Plant saw improvements as well, the most notable being the installation of the last roof on the treated water basin. Many general plant and electrical upgrades were also completed.
Stormwater projects include work in Manchester on a combined sewer overflow regulator. The Fan District has a new green alley on the 1900 block of Grove Avenue that will help absorb stormwater and eliminate flooding. Improvements on 14th Street in the Downtown area include stormwater absorbing plantings and tree wells.

Rounding out DPU’s five utilities, other projects include the ongoing replacement of natural gas lines throughout the city and upgraded streetlights in the western part of the Fan District. All CIPs are planned and implemented as part of the comprehensive plan to make the best Richmond.

By design, CIPs cost more than $25,000 and have an expected life greater than the life of any debt used to fund the project. They require public funds for the purchase, construction, enhancement or replacement of physical infrastructure assets.

14th Street tree wells
Cover on treated water tank

E. 2nd Street combined sewer overflow regulator project
Chemical systems improvements at Wastewater Plant