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I think I smell gas!

by admin on September 29, 2011

Recently I inspected a tenanted property north of Toronto where I discovered a live uncapped gas line peeking out from behind a small corner cabinet in the living room.  It was the kind of line one usually sees with a stand-alone gas fireplace or similar appliance.  The quarter turn ball valve operating the line was easily accessible to the two small children living in the house.

Because the tenant was present during the inspection, I pointed out this life safety concern to her before leaving.  In conversation, I learned that the landlord has been generally less than helpful when dealing with deficiencies and tenant concerns (the inspection results support her comments).  In fact, she told me that she had a CO/gas alarm in the area that had gone off in the past and the landlord simply told her she had a defective alarm.  I suspected that her ability to deal with either the problem or the landlord would meet with limited success so I told her I would be calling Enbridge to have someone investigate. 

As a professional home inspector, I would say that life safety situations involving natural gas or gas lines don’t occur very often but when they do, I feel duty bound to report the problem.  I can’t imagine how I’d feel (or sleep at night) if someone were to die from a completely preventable situation that I did nothing about.  From past experience I’ve found a call to Enbridge is taken very seriously and will rightly result in swift action by the utility.  Unfortunately, not this time …

Enbridge Fobs Off Life Safety Concern

Immediately following my inspection I called to report the situation to Enbridge on their emergency service number (1-866-763-5427).  The woman who answered took all the relevant information but, when I was unable to report an immediate smell of gas, she put me on hold only to come back and say it wasn’t their problem and there was nothing she could do about it.  I was gobsmacked!

I was so ticked-off with Enbridge’s cavalier attitude under the circumstances that I went back to the house and strongly hinted to the tenant that she should call Enbridge herself and report perhaps a faint smell of gas from the area.

Enbridge Take Two 

Uneasy about leaving something as important as this in the hands of a tenant (or even an owner quite frankly), I followed up with another call to Enbridge about four hours later.  This time I reached someone who did recognize the significance and potential ramifications of the situation.  After transferring me off their emergency line, he came back on to discuss the problem and how they might proceed.  Note: The tenant hadn’t called and the guy at Enbridge told me that there had been other gas safety related problems at this address in the past.

Strictly speaking, unless there is a smell of gas or a CO alarm is sounding, Enbridge doesn’t have the authority to deal with problems within the actual home.  He very politely explained that the only way to force their hand would be to report a possible smell of gas (hint, hint, nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  Of course, at that moment, I couldn’t quite recall what it was that I smelled but it certainly could have been gas.  Yes, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure that’s what it was ….

Special Thanks to a “Guy at Enbridge”

Even though I know his name, I’m using “guy at Enbridge” because I don’t want to take a chance of getting someone good – someone who cares – into trouble. Although I think he should be given a citation for recognizing the potential significance of this problem and not just sloughing it off by saying it’s someone else’s concern, I’m not so sure Enbridge would agree.  So thank you, “guy at Enbridge”.  Thank you for taking the initiative to make sure everyone stays safe and no one might die over a stupid thing like a missing cap on a live gas line.  I know I’ll sleep better tonight.

So from now on, I guess I’ll have to answer to any future life safety concerns, at least where it comes to Enbridge, with “Yes, I’m pretty sure I can smell gas.”

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