What do “Ghostbusters” and PSE&G street inspectors have in common? They’re both searching for invisible enemies, need special detection equipment, and keep the public safe. The difference is that at PSE&G, we’re not looking for ghosts. We’re searching for leaking gas on our buried pipes.
I manage a fleet of 12 street inspectors whose job it is to know what’s going on beneath the surface.
If you’ve ever seen a PSE&G truck driving slowly along the curb, chances are it’s one of our street inspectors conducting a leak survey and making their rounds. At first glance, the truck looks like a regular PSE&G van, but at a closer look, you’ll see that it has added equipment near the front bumper – a detector that can find leaking methane gas.
PSE&G is investing $905 million to upgrade 510 miles of our aging gas system during the next three years. But it’s our hope that the program will be extended because we have 5,000 miles of cast iron and unprotected steel mains in our system. We monitor our pipes closely –inspecting all of our 17,700 miles of underground natural gas pipes every year.As our street inspectors are driving, they listen for an alarm that is triggered when a leak in the area is detected. Rich Nonnenmacher, a street inspector and PSE&G employee for 36 years, knows what to do. “When I come across a leak, I step out of the truck for a survey of the area and use my leak detection equipment to test the level of hazard that exists. It’s satisfying to know that I’m making a difference while ensuring the safety of customers.”
It’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause, but we do know leaks happen for several reasons:
– Age. Some of our pipes are more than a century old and they can corrode or crack over time due to constant freezing and thawing of soil.
– Severe winter weather. We have a “winter patrol survey” where we monitor our pipes during periods of severe weather in business areas or areas of recent underground construction.
– Construction work. Excavators, contractors or customers can sometimes accidentally damage our infrastructure. Remember to always call 8-1-1 before digging so that utilities can mark out where their underground lines are located. Heavy machinery can also cause the ground to move and cause cracks in some of our older pipes.
In addition to monitoring PSE&G’s system, we count on the public to report the smell of gas. As a reminder, if you ever smell gas, get outside to fresh air and report it immediately by calling 1-800-880-7734 (PSEG). Natural gas has a distinctive smell of rotten eggs which comes from an odorant we add as a safety measure to warn you of a potential leak. We always respond to reports of gas leaks within one hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to make the area safe and repair our infrastructure.
While we might not be trapping ghosts or goblins, working with gas can be a dangerous job. But we’re able to prevent accidents if we put our safety and that of our customers, first.
So just remember…if there’s a strange smell in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? PSE&G!
Rodney Brown, Distribution Supervisor – Plainfield Gas, PSE&G