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CenterPoint Energy calls in third-party group to investigate after recent carbon monoxide issues in Southern Indiana

Photo by Thierry Geoffroy
Thierry Geoffroy
CenterPoint Energy has called in a third party to look into what caused multiple reports of carbon monoxide and other gas issues in Southern Indiana the weekend of Dec. 24.

CenterPoint Energy has called in an out-of-state group to investigate following multiple reports of carbon monoxide exposure and other gas issues in Southern Indiana last month.

CenterPoint confirmed Minneapolis-based Standby Systems Inc., which specializes in gas interchangeable systems, will conduct a second investigation of CenterPoint Energy to determine what caused the incidents, alongside a separate investigation by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).

The IURC’s Pipeline Safety Division began investigating CenterPoint, which supplies natural gas to Southern Indiana, after more than 100 reports of gas issues at homes and businesses in Clarksville, New Albany and Jeffersonville over Dec. 24 and Christmas Day. At least four people were hospitalized.

In some cases, callers experienced symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Others smelled strange odors or said their carbon monoxide detectors had alerted.

CenterPoint told LPM News in a Dec. 27 statement that there was “no indication of issues” with the company’s natural gas system and that the majority of reports were due to improper ventilation and appliances stressed by the cold.

They also said in the statement they had previously used a propane mix during past weather events like the extreme cold that weekend — when wind chills dipped lower than minus 20 degrees.

It’s not clear whether CenterPoint was using a propane mix during that weekend, but they confirmed to the IURC they won’t use it until it’s determined what caused the gas issues.

Democratic state Rep. Rita Fleming, one of several local lawmakers who called for the investigation, said she’s been in contact with CenterPoint this week and was told that the IURC is wrapping up records inspections at the company’s Sellersburg and Jeffersonville locations.

She said it’s good to have Standby Systems looking into the matter as well.

“They want to come up with an explanation of what happened, why it happened, how to prevent it from happening again,” she said of the two investigations. “And then I think once all of that is revealed, then it's up to the responsible party to then step up and say, ‘Here is how we are going to make things right for these people who were affected.’”

Reporter Ryan Van Velzer contributed to this report.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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