Shelton inspector: ‘We take gas very seriously because of what can happen’

Shelton’s chief building official was surprised at what he found in a natural gas line in the basement of a nail salon in the White Hills Shopping Center.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Joseph Ballaro, whose duties as chief building official include inspecting and signing off on natural gas hookups and extensions. “We could have had a disaster," he said.

The report of a gas odor in the shopping center on the afternoon of April 9 led to an emergency response, with fire, police and Eversource (formerly Yankee Gas) personnel on scene.

A leak was found in the supply line from the street into the shopping center on Leavenworth Road (Route 110), and Eversource workers were able to fix that problem.

However, while checking the basements of buildings in the complex, responders also became concerned about gas pipe work beneath the nail salon.

“There were concerns with a connection in the basement of the nail salon, where the fire department found leaks,” said Shelton Fire Marshal James Tortora. “That connection is questionable. How it was installed is being investigated.”

‘I did witness the violation’

Ballaro also went to the shopping center. “I was called out there and did witness the violation,” he said.

Ballaro said an unauthorized item had been hooked up to the gas pipe in the basement.
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A licensed plumber later fixed the unauthorized connection. “A plumber went there to make it safe,” Ballaro said. “I inspected the [repair] work and it was done properly.”

The Shelton Fire Marshal’s Office and the Shelton Police Department, aided by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, now are investigating the matter.

“We take gas very seriously because of what can happen,” Ballaro said.

Public safety implications

With the growing use of natural gas in recent years, Ballaro is worried about the public safety implications.

He said people buy piping-like material in home improvement stores and use it to extend natural gas lines, but the new material is not like the iron pipes used in the past.

Ballaro said the city Building Department must be contacted when extending a gas line because a permit is needed. A licensed plumber should be used in most cases.

When it comes to simply changing an existing connection, there may be cases when a homeowner can do that themselves.

Permit is required

ut no matter who does the work, a permit is required and a building official has to test and inspect the work after it is done. “It needs to be done to code,” Ballaro said.

He said the gas company must get “a green tag” (an approval sign-off) from the city Building Department before the gas can be turned back on.