Major UGI gas line coming soon to the borough

By on December 26, 2018

A major gas line installation project by UGI is planned to begin in Ephrata Borough as early as Jan. 7, weather permitting, according to a UGI spokesman.

Until now, gas lines in the borough have been sporadic, said D. Robert Thompson, borough manager.

The proposed line will begin at the northern boundary of the borough at North State Street, go south to Queen Street, follow Rose and Sugar alleys, and up to Fulton Street, Thompson said. Michael Ast, new business representative for UGI’s East Region, explained the plan.

“The scope of this project is mainly to serve the business community,” Ast said. “There are some gas lines within the borough, but very little that serve the community businesses, so now those on the route will have access to natural gas all along north and south State Street.”

The gas line will run the entire length of North State Street, and on South State Street, will end at North Queen Street, Ast said. The line will travel east on Fulton Street and include a portion of Lake Street, he said.

“This is our initial phase to enter the community,” Ast said, adding that the line may be extended in the future. The utility has met with borough officials to complete their technical obligations to the borough, explaining how and when the installation will take place and what the infrastructure will be like. Borough Manager Thompson said the gas line isn’t expected to have much of an effect on the borough’s electricity operation.

“We do not believe that having gas service available in the borough will have a significant impact on our electric operations,” Thompson said in an email. “It is unlikely that customers with all electric service will convert to gas because they would have to replace all of their appliances and heating systems to take full advantage of the gas service.

“The most likely scenario for changing to gas services is a property serviced by heating oil, so the impact to the electric utility is expected to be minimal,” Thompson said. Letters have been sent to residents and businesses who would be affected by the construction and are situated along the line to inform them of the coming installation, Ast said.

He stressed that no roads would be closed during the installation process.

“We will maintain two-way traffic and we will also have traffic control personnel, but the installation won’t be intrusive,” Ast said.
The utility will be using a horizontal directional bore machine, Ast said.

“It’s not the traditional opening up of a trench; that’s much more invasive,” Ast said. “We’re going to try to maintain a two-way flow of traffic.”

Customers should still be able to get to various businesses along the street being worked on, he added.

A 20-foot rig will be set along the installation line, and will remain at one spot for two or three days before being moved forward, Ast said.

“The rig shouldn’t interfere too much with traffic or by impeding the ability of residents to access their homes,” Ast said. mIn the summer months, the installation would be expected to take about three months, but installing the line in winter could delay the work because of inclement weather, Ast said. The borough will have stipulations regarding snow days for the winter’s duration, Ast said, so there may be days when work is not allowed for weather reasons.

“We’ll probably be going into springtime,” Ast said. The time put into the project will be worth it for Ephrata residents and businesses, Ast said.

“Natural gas has a lot of benefits; it’s much more economical than other forms of heat and by far, the better fuel,” Ast said. “Heating is by far the most expensive appliance.”
Currently, the majority of homes and businesses in the community are using “number two” fuel, or heating oil, Ast said. While fuel oil isn’t as expensive as it was a number of years ago, natural gas is still less expensive,” he said.

Regarding the safety of natural gas, he said it is as safe as any fuel.

“There’s always a concern, whatever type of fuel you’re using, whether it’s oil, gas, or even electric,” Ast said. “Natural gas is a safe product. When you hear of incidences (of explosions) — which is infrequent — most of the time a municipal contractor didn’t follow protocol or the problem was an aging infrastructure.”

“Natural gas is a safe product, and proper installation is what causes it to be safe,” Ast said.
While the new gas line’s initiative is to provide borough businesses with heat, residents are invited to sign up, too. The gas company may have to modify the resident’s home heating equipment, depending on what type of equipment they currently have, Ast said. About 95 percent of boilers can be modified by replacing the burner, Ast said.

However, if a resident owns a furnace, about 85 percent of the time, all equipment would have to be replaced, he said.

“As far as residents who may be considering changing to natural gas, we do offer cash rebates on the equipment,” Ast said.

The equipment chosen by the homeowner must be high efficiency equipment to qualify for the rebate. For those interested in converting to natural gas, UGI does invest a significant amount of capital toward the process, Ast said.

A connection charge will be levied, set by the public utilities, but the homeowner wins by having to pay about 50 percent less on fuel, Ast said.

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Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 

One Comment

  1. Keith Martin

    December 29, 2018 at 8:55 am

    This is a Great plan!
    Which part of sugar ally will get a Gas line?
    I am on sugar ally near Oak St. and have not received a letter about this yet.

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