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AmerenUE Provides Update on Actions Taken in Response To March 14 Columbia House Explosion

AmerenUE reports it has thoroughly checked the natural gas mains and service connections in the neighborhood surrounding the house at 308 McNab Drive in Columbia that exploded on Friday, March 14, and found no related safety concerns. AmerenUE is working with the Columbia Fire Department and the State Fire Marshall’s Office, which are leading the investigation into what caused the explosion and fire at the home of Carl M. Sneed, who died in the blast, and his wife, Merna, who was critically injured. 

AmerenUE reports it has found nothing in its natural gas facilities outside the home that indicates a cause. Maintenance of pipes and other equipment inside a home are the responsibility of the homeowner, although AmerenUE will send service personnel to check both inside and outside a home if notified of a possible leak. However, AmerenUE records show it received no report of a possible leak at 308 McNab before the explosion occurred. In fact, the last time a gas service person was dispatched to the house was in 2002, and that was to obtain a meter reading when the company’s automated meter-reading system did not record a reading. 

As part of the current investigation, AmerenUE personnel found a small gas leak in a vertical conduit called a “riser,” where the natural gas line came out of the ground and connected to the meter at the home that was destroyed. AmerenUE investigators say the leak was likely caused by the explosion and fire, which melted the gas meter. At the request of the Columbia Fire Department, AmerenUE removed the riser for inspection and sealed the gas line to prevent leakage. 

While the investigation, so far, has not identified a cause for the explosion, AmerenUE says it is important to remind all gas customers to always be alert for any signs of a natural gas leak. Since natural gas, itself, is odorless, the company puts a strong “rotten egg” odor into the gas to help ensure that even a small leak will be detected. If you smell this odor, report it to AmerenUE, so the company can send someone out to check. And if the odor is strong, leave the premises immediately and call from a neighbor’s house or outside on a cell phone, so you don’t create a spark that could ignite the gas. 

“Our hearts and prayers go out the Sneed family and their neighbors,” says AmerenUE Missouri Valley Division Manager Ron Loesch. “This was a very horrific tragedy, and a great shock to the entire community. Fire investigators have AmerenUE’s full support to identify the cause and help prevent anything like this from happening again.” 

With 1.2 million electric customers and 125,000 natural gas customers, AmerenUE is Missouri’s largest electric utility and third-largest distributor of natural gas. It is a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Ameren Corporation. 

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CONTACT: Mike Cleary of AmerenUE, 573.681.7137