German Village Society historic-preservation advocate Nancy Kotting said she believes Columbia Gas of Ohio is violating federal safety standards by locating natural-gas meters in areas that are potentially dangerous.
Kotting said many exterior gas meters already in the village are exposed to vehicular damage, as well as natural elements, and she believes it is in direct contrast to pipeline safety regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Kotting cites a provision of 192.353 from the transportation department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration guidelines, which states: "Each meter and service regulator, whether inside or outside a building, must be installed in a readily accessible location and be protected from corrosion and other damage, including, if installed outside a building, vehicular damage that may be anticipated. However, the upstream regulator in a series may be buried."
To illustrate her point, Kotting pointed to exterior meters on Berger Alley that are placed within 3 feet of the road.
Kotting's concerns are part of a larger argument by the society, which is trying to stop the relocation of 112 residential and business property meters along City Park Avenue and other streets on the western edge of the neighborhood.
Columbia Gas is in the midst of that project, which also includes pipeline replacement. The project is expected to wrap up in August.
None of the gas meters Kotting cited as examples of being improperly located are in the current construction area.
Kelli Nowinsky, a spokeswoman for Columbia Gas, said she couldn't address Kotting's assertion without complete information, such as when the meters were installed.
Still, the public utility has not received any complaints from German Village residents as to the location of their meters, Nowinsky said.
"We understand that our customers have questions and concerns about meter replacement," Nowinsky said. "If any of our customers have a question about the location of their existing meter outside, we will absolutely come out and take a look at those.
"We serve our customers, so we want our customers to feel comfortable with where things are, so (they can) call us."
The overall goal, according to Columbia Gas officials, is to move nearly all interior gas meters to the exterior of properties in German Village and the rest of Ohio.
Officials said that is being done because of safety and for the sake of convenience for the utility company and its customers.
German Village officials have maintained such a move would undermine the historic fabric of the village, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
"Every single structure is under threat in the district, not just 112 ... every structure," Kotting said.
The society was dealt a blow June 2 when its request for a temporary restraining order against Columbia Gas was dismissed by a Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is now considering the society's request for an injunction against Columbia Gas while an independent safety study is completed.
As of June 9, the PUCO had not ruled on the matter.
In the meantime, society officials said they have collected more than 100 signatures for a petition calling a halt to the meter relocation.
The petition has been delivered to the offices of the governor, Columbus mayor and Columbus City Council.
While Columbia Gas works to relocate the meters outdoors, the society is looking to get Columbia Gas to move them back inside, Kotting said.
"We're not messing around," Kotting said.