Richmond VA > Public Utilities > Natural Gas Safety

Last Updated: 2017-09-06


The distinctive odor of natural gas is a safety feature to alert you and your family to even the smallest amount that might escape. Because natural gas has no odor, a harmless chemical is added to create the distinctive odor of rotten eggs. If you think you smell a natural gas leak, call (804)646-4646 immediately. If you need more information, you can request a scratch and sniff card or download a Natural Gas Safety presentation or brochure.

Use your senses of Sight, Smell, and Hearing to recognize gas leaks!

Leak Recognition and 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 (rotten eggs smell) so that you will recognize it quickly.

Sight -- You may see a white cloud, mist, fog, 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 City Richmond DPU at (804) 646-4646

DO NOT strike a match, use telephones, switch on/off appliances, lights, or even a flashlight in the area you smell gas. These items can produce sparks that might ignite and cause an explosion

811 Safety Commercial 811 Safety Commercial

Get Ready for Winter with a Furnace Tune-Up

An annual safety inspection of your gas furnace by a licensed heating contractor is always recommended, but there are some things you can do yourself to ensure your home and furnace is ready for winter.

Test your carbon monoxide detector. Replace the battery. Every home should have one.

Check the furnace area for any combustibles stored nearby. Move these out of the furnace room. Remove anything that could restrict airflow to the furnace. Check all supply and return air vents for blockage. Clothing, lint and furniture are common obstructions.

Check for black soot on and around the furnace. Black soot is a sign of improper combustion caused by a defect in the furnace or vent system. If you find black soot, don't operate your furnace until it has been inspected and repaired by a licensed heating contractor.

Disposable fiberglass filters should be replaced and electrostatic filters should be washed at least every three months. Clogged air filters can significantly restrict airflow and hurt the performance of your heating system.

You can also check your ductwork for leaks when the furnace is running. Slowly run your hand around the outside of an entire duct run to feel for escaping air. Check the return duct by running a piece of tissue along the sides. If you feel the tissue being sucked in, you have a leak. Use ductwork-approved foil tape to seal those leaks.

Safety Tips for the Garage

All gas appliances have a main burner flame and many also have a pilot flame. To reduce the risk of flammable vapors being ignited by these flames, follow the basic safety tips below:

  • Water heaters installed in garages must be elevated so the pilot light or other ignition source is a minimum of 18 inches above the floor in order to reduce the potential for fire or explosion due to spillage or leakage of combustible liquids in the garage.
  • Never store or use flammable products such as gasoline, paint thinner, or cleaning products in the same room or near any gas appliance. This is especially true in the garage.
  • Lower water heater temperature to prevent scalding accidents. Water temperatures above 125 degrees can cause severe burns.
  • Avoid dirt build-up around a garage furnace by vacuuming or sweeping around it regularly. Don’t place rugs, furniture, or any combustible items over the grill or block the airflow.

Pipeline Purpose and Reliability

The Department of Public Utilities operates 1,825 miles of natural gas pipelines. These pipelines quietly, reliably and efficiently delivery natural gas throughout the service territory for residential, commercial and industrial use.

Natural gas energy is the most popular home heating fuel in America and its pipeline system is among the safety and most secure methods of transporting energy.

The natural gas industry works very closely with government and stays abreast of new security methods and technologies to ensure the highest levels of safety. Individual gas utilities also evaluate their security procedures on a regular basis and continually enhance safety programs as necessary and appropriate to meet their needs.

Hazard Awareness and Prevention Measures

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. We work diligently to ensure pipeline safety through a variety of measures including:

  • One-call (Miss Utility) and Dig Safe programs
  • Inspection programs
  • Design and construction practices
  • Workforce qualification programs
  • Public education programs
  • Industry safety practices and government oversight
  • Pipeline markers and facility mapping
  • Gas leak surveys
  • Patrol of critical gas facilities
  • Gas pressure monitoring
  • Gas odorization
  • Liaison with city, county and municipal agencies
  • Security measures

Prevent Water Scalding

Having a water heater thermostat set too high not only keeps your gas or electric bill high, it can cause injury. The majority of water scalding accidents happen to the elderly and children under 5. Third degree burns can occur if you are exposed for as little as 6 seconds to 140 degree water. Even milder temperatures can do harm. It takes just 30 seconds to be burned by 130 degree water, and 5 minutes to 120 degree water.

You can be scalded if you fall into the bathtub, don't test the water before you get in, place a child in, or the temperature changes while you are in the shower because someone else in the house turned on water. Children can also burn themselves playing with the faucet.

The American Burn Association recommends 100 degrees as the safest temperature for bathing. Never exceed 120 degrees. Have a plumber check your water heater to ensure it is within the required temperature of 120 degrees. And if you live with small children or the elderly, consider having an anti-scald device installed in faucets and showerheads that will limit water flow to a trickle if it exceeds 120 degrees.

Keep Meters Free of Snow and Ice

It's important to remove excessive accumulation of snow and ice from your gas meter and exhaust and combustion air vents to prevent carbon monoxide from building up in your home or place of business. Use a broom instead of a shovel to prevent damage to your meter and piping.

Damage Prevention Awareness and One-Call (Miss Utility) Requirements

811 Know what's below. Call before you dig.
  • Click on the logo to visit the Miss Utility page and learn who’s doing work in your area.
  • The greatest risk to underground pipelines is accidental damage during excavation. To protect our natural gas pipelines and other underground facilities it is critical that people use the one call (Miss Utility) system prior to ANY excavation related activities on public and private property.

    In Virginia all excavators are reminded to dig with

    care

    Call Miss Utility at 811 before you dig

    The law requires that ALL excavators notify the local one-call (Miss Utility) system by dialing 811, (800) 552-7001 or Virginia 811 website. The one-call (Miss Utility) center will contact the owners of the underground facilities (and pipelines) in the immediate area of digging so that they can mark the location of their facilities prior to excavation.

    Allow required time for marking

    Before you excavate, wait the required time period to allow the utilities time to mark out the area and / or respond to the notification. The following chart is applicable for most situations. If you are uncertain, check with Miss Utility.

    waitperiod

    Respect the marks

    The utilities will mark the approximate horizontal location of their lines. The excavator is responsible to preserve these marks.

    Excavate carefully

    Excavators are required to take certain precautions when working in the immediate area of underground facilities. 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.

    Even if you cause what seems to be minor damage to a pipeline (or gas facility, e.g. gas meters) notify Richmond DPU immediately at (804) 646-4646. A gouge, scrape, dent, or crease to the pipe or its coating may cause a future leak or failure. It is imperative that the pipeline owners inspect and repair any damage.

    Know Your Gas Meter Responsibilities

    As the owner or occupant of a building that is supplied with natural gas, you have a shared responsibility to ensure that the gas meter, regulator, and associated piping are protected from damage. Your responsibility also includes the maintenance of any piping between your gas meter and your appliances.

    • Take care when using lawn mowers, brush cutters or digging in gardens or flower beds so you do not damage gas piping.
    • Do not scratch or damage the protective paint coating on the gas meter and piping.
    • Do not chain a pet, bicycle, gas grill or anything else to the gas meter or piping.
    • Do not anchor laundry lines or plant supports or hang anything from the gas meter or piping.
    • Maintain a safe clearance between your gas, charcoal or propane grill and the gas meter.
    • Maintain a two foot clearance to allow access to the meter and meter shut-off valve. Maintain at least a three foot clearance around commercial meters.
    • Do not disconnect, move or disturb the gas meter.
    • Do not change or alter the service connection in any manner.

    Lightning Strikes Can Cause Gas Leaks Through Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing

    If your home or business was built after 1990 or you had work done to your natural gas system, it's likely that corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) was installed.

    If lightning strikes a structure containing CSST, there is a risk it can travel along the structure's natural gas piping system and cause a leak, or in some cases, even a fire.

    CSST does not connect directly to appliances, but runs through a home or business, sometimes under floors, along sidewalls, or in the attic. It is a flexible, stainless steel pipe and often has a yellow, or sometimes black, casing.

    CSST gas piping systems should be bonded to the electrical service grounding system at the point where the gas service enters the building. The bonding jumper should not be smaller than a 6 AWG copper wire or equivalent.

    If you find CSST in your home or business, it is recommended that you contact a licensed electrician to make sure it is properly bonded and grounded. If you are unsure whether your building contains CSST, contact a building inspector for a professional inspection.

    Additional Information can be obtained through the following:

    City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (DPU) (804) 646-4646

    Call Before You Dig (Virginia) 811 or (800) 552-7001

    Office of Pipeline Safety

    Learn more about how to get natural gas for your home or business

    Gas Meter Location Requirements


    RVA Impact Map displays projects (i.e. gas, water, paving, etc.), events (i.e. parades, races, block parties, etc.) and right of way impacts (i.e. detours, partial and full lane closures, barricades, parking restrictions, etc.) as an interactive map for informational and navigational purposes. Data displayed is refreshed as changes are made.

    Contact Information:

    Public Utilities
    City of Richmond
    900 E. Broad St.,
    Room 115
    Richmond, VA
    23219 USA
    Map It
    Phone: (804)646-4646

    DPU can automatically deduct the amount of your monthly bill from your checking or savings account on the date the bill is due. Call (804) 646-4646 to request an application, then return the completed application with a voided check. DPU will set up the service with your bank at no charge to you. The form may also be downloaded online - Automatic Utility Payment Plan Agreement Authorization for Direct Deposits/Payments (ACH Debits/Credits)

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