NOVEMBER 2, 2016
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities fined a contractor $100,000 for damaging a gas line in Elizabeth earlier this year and attempting an unauthorized repairs without notifying the gas company, or emergency officials.
The contractor, Henkels & McCoy, damaged the line in the 500 block of South Park Street in Elizabeth on April 5, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) said.
"We take all violations of those safety regulations very seriously because any violation can be a potential threat to the safety of the public, utility workers and first responders," BPU President Richard Mroz said in an statement.
The BPU said their investigation showed the Henkels & McCoy crew did not call 911 or notify Elizabethtown Gas, the gas distribution company, immediately after causing the damage.
"During the course of the investigation, Board staff became concerned with actions of Henkels & McCoy, particularly the failure by Henkels & McCoy to properly report a natural gas incident to 911," the statement said.
"It is important to note that we are a company that has embraced safety first in all operations as our guiding principle," a spokesperson for Henkels & McCoy said.
"Our leadership and every one of our more than 4,500 employees are dedicated to the highest standards of work site safety and to continuous improvement to safeguard employees, contractors, and the community at large," the spokesperson said.
The BPU fined PSE&G $725,000 and Henkels & McCoy $600,000 for each company's role in the March 2014 explosion. PSE&G was also fined another $275,000 for other violations
As part of the settlement agreement reached by Henkels & McCoy and BPU staff, the company made no admission of any violation of law or wrongdoing, but agreed to take corrective actions and make process enhancements, the BPU said.
Last year, a BPU investigation resulted in Henkels & McCoy being named as a responsible party in a fatal gas explosion that rocked a Ewing neighborhood in 2014.
At that site, a Henkels & McCoy work crew believed they hit a gas line more than an hour before the blast, but did not call 911.
The BPU fined PSE&G $725,000 and Henkels & McCoy $600,000 for each company's' role leading to the fatal explosion - the BPU's largest fines at the time, the agency said.
Also, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the company $14,000 for two "serious" violations in March of 2015 for the Ewing blast.
Other OSHA fines against Henkels & McCoy include $70,000 in March 2013 for repeat trenching hazards at a site in Bayonne and $42,000 for safety violations in Neptune in August 2013.