Shelton natural gas connection concern leads to investigation

Responders to a reported gas odor at the White Hills Shopping Center on April 9 found what is being described as a “questionable” connection in the basement of one business.

Emergency crews were called to the complex on Route 110 last Thursday afternoon because of the smell of natural gas near the Newtown Savings Bank branch.

Firefighters, the fire marshal, police officers and Eversource (formerly Yankee Gas) employees were on-scene. A leak was found in the supply line from the street into the shopping center, 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 a nail salon.

'Connection is questionable'

“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.”

Tortora said it doesn’t appear to be a possible case of someone trying to steal natural gas, but rather it involves “poor installation.”

“We’re looking into the way it was done,” he said.

Tortora is being aided in the investigation by the state fire marshal’s office and the Shelton Police Department.

Gas lines can sometimes be connected to devices without proper authorization, which can create problems. Clients are supposed to contact the gas company to assist with or approve such work.

Police involved

Shelton police Det. Richard Bango confirmed the police were involved, but would not go into details about the situation.

“The whole incident is under investigation by the police department and the fire marshal,” Bango said of the gas odor report and response.

Sources said the “questionable” connection underneath the nail salon has since been rectified, so there should be no reason for concern in the future.

Tenant: 'This was very dangerous'

Another tenant in the building, who preferred not to be identified, said some business owners were worried about what happened.
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The tenant heard there had been “tampering” in the gas line beneath a certain business, and this raised fears based on what just happened at a Manhattan apartment building where a suspected illegal gas hookup led to an explosion, killing two people and destroying the structure.

“This was very dangerous to all of us,” said the tenant, adding the situation could have been “a major disaster.”

According to this tenant, each business pays its own natural gas bill.

The White Hills Shopping Center houses many businesses, including two child care centers, in a few separate buildings. There is an abutting gas station.

'Finished in less than 90 minutes'

Mitch Gross, an Eversource spokesman, said Eversource workers did respond to the initial call of the smell of gas outside the bank. The company was initially contacted by police to respond, which is routine in such matters.

“We found the source of the leak, made a repair and were finished in less than 90 minutes,” Gross said.

Eversource is mostly just responsible for the connection from a main line to a customer, and has less direct control over what a customer might do on its own property.