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Itron subcontractor has role in explosion

An explosion destroyed three townhouse units in Allentown, Pa., on Saturday after a subcontractor hired by Liberty Lake-based Itron Inc. made mistakes while installing automated natural gas metering equipment.

According to newspaper reports in The Morning Call, an Allentown newspaper, a total of 26 people – half of them children – were evacuated from the block of eight townhouses that included the three that were destroyed. No one was hurt.

The blast happened about 1:30 p.m. Saturday and a large cloud of smoke was visible from the city’s downtown.

Itron CEO LeRoy Nosbaum said the company and its insurer were moving quickly to help the families, according to a press release.

Itron had been hired by UGI Utilities to install automated meter reading equipment. To do the actual installations, Itron hired a Richmond, Ky., company called TeamsTs.

According to reports, a TeamsTs employee removed the wrong fitting on the natural gas meter, allowing the gas to leak. When the employee realized he could not stop the leak, the buildings were evacuated. The cause of the ignition has yet to be determined, though it could have been a pilot light of a natural gas appliance or an electrical switch.

In its press release, Itron said the equipment installation crews were trained.