State inspectors check gas systems in Eagle Lake

Published 4:39 pm Friday, September 20, 2019

Inspectors for the State Fire Marshal were in the Eagle Lake community Friday inspecting propane tanks, lines and gas-operated electric generators possibly damaged during the backwater flooding affecting Eagle Lake.

Water from flooding in the Yazoo Backwater Area covered roads and inundated many homes in Eagle Lake, in many cases putting residential propane tanks and appliances like backup power generators either submerged or partially submerged.

In some cases, propane tanks either floated from their stands or overturned.

“This is a safety inspection,” state Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal Mike Chaney said. “This about saving lives and protecting property.”

“Anytime there is a situation like this where the system has been interrupted — propane tanks or the lines — especially in a flood situation like this, we have to go up here and look at the reinstallation behind the gas dealers,” inspector Connie Dolan said.

She said the inspectors make sure the installations meet the current federal regulations.

“We have specific code books that we follow; the state of Mississippi follows Gas Codes 54 and 58 out of the National Fire Protection Association federal guidelines,” she said.

Inspectors check the tank’s data plate and serial number with state records and examine the equipment installation, the service line and connections to the residence.

If the work or the equipment is not up to federal code, Dolan said, the dealer is notified what needs to be corrected, sometimes through a letter explaining the problem and the code violation.

“We do that for all new installations across the state. There are six of us throughout the state and we all have territories. Eagle Lake happens to be in mine,” Dolan, a former Warren County sheriff’s deputy, said. She added inspectors have the authority to go on private property to check propane tanks, lines and equipment.

“We are the authority with jurisdiction over any propane in the state of Mississippi,” she said. “If there’s propane sitting on your property, we have the authority to go on your property and inspect it.”

Concerning Eagle Lake’s situation, Dolan said many times propane tanks and lines do well underwater, but appliances and generators that spend time underwater can have problems requiring repair or replacement to prevent a possible fire in the future. Sometimes, she added, gas lines may indicate possible water damage.

“Most of the tanks will do OK; you just need replace the regulator and the pigtail (the line connecting the tank and the regulator),” she said. “Most of the lines are copper tubing or stainless steel, and we have to watch for corrosion on the stainless steel.”

In cases of a flood, Dolan said, gas company employers readjust the tank, change out the regulator and check the lines and do other necessary maintenance work, which is checked by regulators. She said gas companies will not fill a tank until the maintenance work has been done.

If there is propane or water vapor in the regulator, Chaney said, it may affect the water heater or stove in the home and put the pilot flame out.

“And then you get free propane gas in and you try to relight the flame, you could have an explosion, so it’s a safety factor,” she said.

And only qualified people are allowed to work on propane equipment.

“Everybody who has anything to do with propane in the state of Mississippi is permitted through our office,” Dolan said.

She also offered advice if propane is suspected of leaking in a building.

“If someone smells propane in their residence, they need to get out, call the (gas) company and their local fire department,” she said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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