New city ordinance to make businesses foot the bill - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Ordinance allows city to bill businesses for HAZ-MAT calls

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An ordinance set to take effect next year will allow the City of Columbia to send a bill to businesses involved in HAZ-MAT situations.  

The ordinance specifically deals with hazardous material emergencies like yesterday's gas leak, which Chief Aubrey Jenkins says, when you add in manpower, and the cost of operating fire trucks, the bill can really add up.

A crew from Rock Hill based, K. S. Trenchco was drilling to install underground communication lines when the drill punctured a gas line. As the gas started leaking, workers called 911.

Two hours later as workers from SCE&G were locating the leak, a spark ignited the gas shooting fire into the air and sent workers running for safety. Seconds later, firefighters were already working to get the flames out.

Columbia police also spent hours at the scene redirecting traffic.

"This is not a fine," Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said. "This is to reimburse the city for assets sent to take care of these types of incidents."

The ordinance first came about earlier this year after a chemical leak on North Main Street. Fire crews spent hours on the scene cleaning up the mess.

The hazardous situation required some firefighters to wear special HAZ-MAT suits. After the clean up, six suits had to be trashed costing the department more than $6,500.

Replacing equipment damaged by hazardous material emergencies is a big part of the new ordinance.

Add in the cost of paying city employees, and Chief Jenkins says it's not hard to put a dent in the city budget.

"When things happen like this, and you have to use that much equipment and that many man hours, just for the whole incident, which is not really budget for, yes we need to recoup that cost," Jenkins said.

It's unclear if the contractor will be asked to repay the city for some costs.

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