Gas company accused of sewer damage

This photograph obtained by KRCG 13 from the manager of the Gravois Arms Sewer District shows a sewer line that contractors for Summit Natural Gas broke while laying a natural gas pipeline.

A sewer district manager told KRCG 13 a gas company's contactors damaged clearly marked sewer lines on several occasions.

Ray Metscher, the operator/manager of the Gravois Arms Sewer District, said contractors working for Summit Natural Gas of Missouri struck sewer lines in at least 10 to 12 places during the summer and fall of 2013. In some cases, those strikes broke the sewer line entirely. Moreover, Metscher said in some cases, a gas line was buried on top of a sewer line, preventing crews from servicing the sewer line. The district has a two-foot variance around its sewer lines, meaning any other utility lines need to be at least two feet away.

"When I asked them how long they were going to continue to operate in the fashion they were, they told me until somebody told them to stop," he said.

Metscher said he has never had this issue with contractors working for any other utility company.

KRCG 13 first reported on May 21 that Camden County resident Michael Stark is fighting Summit over a pipeline that was buried on his private road without his knowledge or consent. Stark filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission and has a hearing before that body scheduled for June 3. PSC officials told KRCG 13 Stark's complaint is the only one currently on file with them regarding Summit's actions.

Metscher told KRCG 13 the strikes led to interruptions in service, although many of the homes his district serves are summer homes and were vacant when the problems began. The sewer lines have been repaired, but he said the strikes destroyed a critical part of sewer infratructure known as a locator line. These metal strips run along a utility line, allowing workers to locate the line using metal detectors whenever work needs to be done. When the strikes happened, the locator lines running along the pipes were destroyed, leaving district personnel unable to locate and mark their own sewer lines. Metscher said Summit referred sewer district personnel to the company's contractors when asked about the strikes. Those contractors were unresponsive. He said Woods Construction and Midwest Utilities did most of the damage in the Gravois Mills area. Those strikes cost the district anywhere from $300 to $2300 each. He said the district has been compensated for most of the strikes, but Summit's contractors still owe about $1200.

"My main concern is the total disregard of other people's properties and rights," he said. "In front of my house, they went through on a state right-of-way, and when I told them I wanted it cleaned up better, they said it was state right-of-way and they didn't have to do it."

A spokesman for Summit Natural Gas of Missouri referred KRCG 13 to the utility's parent company, Littleton, Colo.-based Summit Utilities, Inc. Representatives for that company have not responded to multiple calls for comment.

If you have had an issue with Summit Natural Gas or any other utility company, you can file a complaint with the Missouri Public Service Commission.