Fairhope gas mitigation work to start


FAIRHOPE– Work is continuing to update Fairhope Gas Department operations according to city officials who said rumors that the Alabama Public Service Commission plans to close the department are false.

Fairhope Utilities issued a statement that an annual audit by the PSC in 2019 found that the city had not completed required inspections and repairs of unprotected gas services and reported concerns about cathodic protection.

After the violations were reported, city Gas Department members met with the PSC to develop a plan to mitigate the issues. Part of the work was completed in 2019 and 2020, but demand for new services led to some repairs on unprotected services and cathodic protection were not finished.

The audit for the year 2019, completed in June 2020, noted that the required maintenance was insufficient. After Mayor Karin Wilson and Operations Director Mike Allison received the audit, Gas Department workers were ordered to stop new construction and new services for generators until a mitigation plan was developed. The city also made staffing changes and management responsibilities at the Gas Department, the statement said.

On June 25, a notice was sent out telling customers that the installation of new services would be delayed up to six weeks while officials assessed the system. The assessment was completed in three weeks.

During that time, Fairhope Utilities continued to respond to emergencies and install gas mains and other services. The department also completed several service installations for generators needed to support life safety needs.

The City Council voted Aug. 10 to award contracts to assist with mitigation by Dec. 31. The contractors will soon be in the site to complete the work, the Fairhope statement said.

“Moving forward, all work for the Gas Department has been reprioritized in such a way that ensures this required maintenance is completed each year and that the system is operated as safely and efficiently as possible,” the statement said. “This includes asking developers to install new gas infrastructure for their subdivisions much as they currently do for water and wastewater. The PSC has made no mention or has expressed no intention to shut the Gas Department down.”