I Reported A Gas Leak To My Utility Company; They Took My Meter Away

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Winter is no longer coming; it’s arrived and it’s quite cold in many parts of the country, including Philadelphia, where Norma, her husband, and their two small kids — as well as the family pets — currently don’t have heat. Not because they didn’t pay their bills, or because they are masochists, but because they reported a possible gas leak to their local utility company.

Norma tells Consumerist that a family member called Philadelphia Gas Works earlier this week when they smelled gas, and were told that a leak had been detected. PGW then shut off the gas, and informed them that a cap was missing from their meter. The company said this was a sign that the meter may have been tampered with, so PGW took it away while the company investigated.

“We have never touched the meter,” Norma says, adding that they’re on budget billing and the bill is the same every month, so there’s no reason they would need to do anything with the meter.

“Plus we called them to come because we had a gas leak and smelled it and called for help. Why would we call them if we were responsible?” she writes.

Norma says whenever they call PGW to find out when they might get their heat and hot water back, they’re given the runaround and told that an investigation is being done.

“It’s cold and going to get colder,” she writes. “We have no hot water or cooking gas and nowhere else we can go.”

While a PGW spokesman told Consumerist that the consumer affairs department was looking into Norma’s situation, he declined to comment on the specifics of the tampering investigation. He did stress that safety is the utility company’s first priority, and if there’s natural gas leaking from any appliance or any meter — including one that isn’t working correctly because it’s been tampered with — PGW needs to know about it and take action to make it safe.

He acknowledges that sometimes that does result in a temporary disruption of service — usually only a matter of days — but that this inconvenience pales in comparison to the risks posed by a gas leak.

As of Wednesday afternoon, with a gale warning on the horizon, Norma says she’s only been told to call PGW back tomorrow, when temperatures are expected to reach a high of 36.

“It is going to be 20 degrees tonight,” she writes. “I don’t understand how they can do this.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of PGW leaving a customer in the cold because of a possible gas leak. In 2011, a Consumerist reader also said she’d paid her bills in full, but also had her gas shut off and the meter taken away after a leak had been reported.

In that case, PGW told Consumerist that when they find a meter that’s been tampered with, protocol demands that they remove the meter, shut off the gas, and investigate, with a timeline of three business days to restore gas.

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