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City completes gas line work

One of the more tumultuous events in Enumclaw’s recent history has apparently been resolved.

It was February 2009 when the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission announced it was cracking down on the city for alleged inadequacies in the natural gas supply system. The part that caught everyone’s attention was the mention of fines potentially reaching $11 million if Enumclaw failed to comply with the UTC’s findings.

That quickly brought an emergency meeting of the City Council and, within a few days, city officials were in Olympia to begin the process of negotiating a settlement with the commission. It took several months to iron out the details, but an agreement was reached.

Specifically, the UTC cited safety violations that went back more than a dozen years.

“The city is unable to demonstrate it has performed proper maintenance and other minimum safety operations on its gas system,” UTC Pipeline Safety Program Director Anne Soiza said in a press release issued Feb. 10, 2009. “Commission staff has attempted to work with city officials to resolve these problems. Unfortunately, through follow-up inspections, we found the city has failed to adequately correct ongoing safety issues. We are concerned, if left unaddressed, that this pattern of behavior by the city will put the public at risk.”

The city immediately posted information on its Web site stating that the UTC information came as a surprise. In its defense, the city pointed to a letter received 10 months earlier from the state agency. In that document, the UTC noted the city took four agreed-upon steps to upgrade its natural gas utility, thus satisfying the actions required as part of a previous settlement agreement.

The UTC agreed the city had taken some proper steps, but was addressing only a portion of the problem.

Public Works Director Chris Searcy recently appeared before the City Council, noting that his department has not only satisfied all the UTC requirements, but finished the necessary work eight months ahead of schedule.

“Earlier this month we completed our last required task under our settlement agreement with the UTC,” Searcy told the council. Department employees had jumped on the task quickly, he added, meeting 14 of the 16 condition prior to the first quarterly report.

Searcy left no doubt he’s convinced the city has done everything the UTC required.

The next standard inspection of the city natural gas system is slated for May, he said, “and we are well prepared for that and looking forward to them coming in this time.”

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