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Copper pipe thefts more dangerous when natural gas is involved

December 26, 2010

Many of the copper pipe thefts that have become a problem in the area have involved cutting into copper water lines in homes, but now there is a new wrinkle.


Columbia Gas of Maryland is asking people to be vigilant because there have been cases of thieves cutting pipes carrying natural gas.


That can be a dangerous practice, the utility said last week.


When pipe carrying natural gas is removed, gas can flow into a home, creating a danger to anyone entering the building or others living nearby, according to a news release issued Tuesday by Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania and Columbia Gas of Maryland.


Many of the copper pipe thefts have involved vacant homes.


Columbia Gas encourages anyone with vacant property — including real estate agents and homeowners leaving on an extended holiday — to make arrangements for their homes to be monitored by neighbors or to contact Columbia Gas to temporarily disconnect service.

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The utility asks customers to be aware of unrecognized vehicles in their neighborhoods, particularly at homes known to be vacant, and to contact police if they have any concerns.


Customers also can contact the gas company’s Energy Theft Hotline at 866-515-9864 if they suspect theft involving natural gas service.


Columbia Gas is encouraging customers to be aware of people tampering with natural gas meters, a dangerous and illegal act, according to the release.


Theft of copper pipe has been a growing problem in the Tri-State area.


Hagerstown Police Department officials said recently that they have had at least 15 to 20 thefts of copper pipe from homes.


In some cases, when the copper water lines were cut, water flooded homes, causing damage, police said.

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