Thursday, September 1, 2016

Natural Gas Safety Important Information

Hazard Awareness and Prevention 
The U.S. natural gas transmission and distribution system has the best safety record of any type of transportation system in the country. Natural gas is clean, convenient, and efficient, which makes it the popular energy choice.

Like all forms of energy, however, it must be handled properly. Despite an excellent safety record, a gas leak caused by damage to a pipeline may pose a hazard and has the potential to ignite. DPU works diligently to ensure pipeline safety through a variety of measures, including the one-call Miss Utility and Dig Safe programs, inspections, design and construction practices, workforce qualifications, public education, industry safety practices and government oversight, pipeline markers and facility mapping, gas leak surveys, and patrols of critical gas facilities.

Leak Response
A gas leak is usually recognized by the smell, sight, or sound.

  • Smell: Natural gas is colorless and odorless. Before it reaches you, we add a distinctive, pungent odor -- a rotten eggs smell -- so that you will recognize it quickly.
  • Sight: You may see a white cloud, mist, fog, or bubbles in standing water, or vegetation that appears to be dead or dying for no apparent reason.
  • Sound: You may hear an unusual noise like roaring, hissing or whistling.

What should you do if you suspect a leak?

  • Protect life first. Move to a safe environment.
  • Call 911 or the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities at 646-7000.
  • Do not strike a match, use telephones, switch on or off appliances, lights or even a flashlight in the area where you smell gas. Those actions could produce sparks that might ignite and cause an explosion.

How to Get Additional Information

Ways to Make Your Utility Bill Easy to Manage

The City of Richmond has several programs to assist you with keeping up with your utility bills, especially as heating season approaches.

The Equal Monthly Payment Plan (EMPP) spreads your annual natural gas bill over 12 months. The estimated monthly payment is based on the previous year’s natural gas usage. Accounts are reviewed and adjusted each year in August. To take advantage of this billing plan, call 646-7000 and request the Equal Monthly Payment Plan.

MetroCare, a DPU program funded and administered by partner agencies, individuals and company donations, assists families and individuals experiencing special hardships or financial difficulties with their heating bills. The application period runs from Dec. 15 to April 30 each year.

If your income falls below the Federal Poverty Guidelines, you are unemployed, or have a family crisis, apply at one of the following locations:

  • Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People, 1021 Oliver Hill Way, 788-0050, 
  • Salvation Army Central Virginia Area Command, 2 W. Grace Street, 225-7470.

To learn if you are eligible under guidelines published by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, call the City’s Department of Social Services’ Energy Assistance division at 646-7046. For more information, call 2-1-1. The maximum amount of assistance is $500.

Special Payment Agreement Plans can be arranged for those facing financial difficulties by calling 646-7000.

Seniors who are eligible for the Tax Relief for the Elderly and Disabled Program are exempt from solid waste and recycling fees on their utility bills. For more information, call 646-5700. Seniors also do not incur late fees on their bills, do not have to pay security deposits to transfer or restore services, and are exempt from shut-offs between Dec. 1 and March 31. To enroll in the Senior Care Program, call 646-7000, or 3-1-1.

The MetroCare Water Assistance Program is in its second year and provides discounted water and wastewater fees and charges for low income customers. You can make an appointment at two of the same intake agencies as the MetroCare heating assistance program -- Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People or the Salvation Army, to apply for assistance with your water bill. The water bill must be in the name of the applicant and the customer must live at the property. The Department of Social Services currently does not accept or process the MetroCare Water Assistance applications.
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