The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has found MetroNet responsible for 10 of the 20 incidents it investigated involving damage to natural gas lines in Carmel and Fishers in recent weeks. The damage occurred as MetroNet’s subcontractors worked to install underground fiber optic lines.
Six of the incidents were found to be caused by utility companies not marking the gas lines properly as required by law, and another four incidents did produce enough evidence to show a law was violated.
The City of Carmel on Aug. 30 ordered MetroNet to halt work until the IURC investigation, initially requested by the City of Fishers, was complete. Fishers also halted MetroNet digging in late August, and the City of Westfield did the same thing after damage to a gas line Sept. 8 resulted in gas leaking into the sewer system. As a result, nearby homes were evacuated and electricity in the area was turned off until the gas line was repaired.
MetroNet President John Cinelli said the company is taking the IURC’s findings seriously and that its goal is “always to protect public safety.”
“We are voluntarily pausing all underground construction in Central Indiana while we conduct further contractor training,” Cinelli stated. “We are committed to providing a world-class fiber optic infrastructure in Indiana and building it in a responsible manner.”
It’s unclear when work will begin again, but Carmel spokeswoman Nancy Heck said that affected Hamilton County communities “intend to have a united approach to this issue and need to work together toward that goal.”
“Before the City of Carmel can allow MetroNet and its contractors back to work in Carmel, we need assurances that any work done in our city will be accomplished in a more prudent and careful manner,” Heck stated in an email. “Neighboring communities in Hamilton County are discussing municipal legislation that will create ordinances giving our cities the ability to fine MetroNet or others requesting to work in our Right-of-Way areas when they violate certain criteria set forth in the new local legislation.”
Heck said the city would like the new legislation to require:
- Assurances that safety plans are in place
- Contractors be legally registered to work in Indiana
- Yard and landscaping restoration to be completed in a timely fashion
- Contractors entering the right-of-way or private property to treat people and private property with respect
The IURC report stated that all six subcontractors involved in the incidents were from out of state and that five of them were not registered with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office. The unregistered companies could face fines of up to $10,000