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'Not happy'; Residents hope for more action after December carbon monoxide incident

CenterPoint Energy said an "incorrect mixture of gas" caused dozens of people to get sick with carbon monoxide-related illnesses across southern Indiana.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — A southern Indiana gas company is taking responsibility and apologizing for a carbon monoxide issue that occurred last December.

Over Christmas weekend, several dozen households in Clarksville, New Albany and Jeffersonville experienced carbon monoxide-related health issues and sent four people to the hospital.

CenterPoint Energy is extending its "sincere apologies" to those impacted.

The company said its initial indications found there were no issues with the natural gas system, however a third-party investigation found there was an "incorrect mixture of gas at our facility."

"A disproportionate amount of propane had been added into our natural gas system and, as such, contributed to the reports of carbon monoxide in the three communities," CenterPoint Energy said in a statement. "We regret that our initial indications were incorrect and accept responsibility for the error."

The mistake led to more than 100 calls of carbon monoxide issues in southern Indiana. Bill Elder was one of those affected and told WHAS11 his wife barely made it out of their house alive.

"She couldn't even walk," he said. "She was just down and out." 

In the months since the gas mix-mix up, Elders said he's had many sleepless nights. 

"[It's been] a whole lot of stress--kind of hard to go to bed at night because you're afraid you might not wake up," Elders said. "I mean, it's the holidays when you're supposed to be spending time with your family. Everybody could have died."

While the company has made it clear restitution will follow, customers like Elder are hoping more action is taken.

"At this point, no I'm not happy," Elders said. "[CenterPoint] should never do it again, no matter what the circumstances is."

Representative Rita Fleming (D-Indiana) was among those who originally pushed for an investigation.

"I'm pleased that they have ceased operations at the Jeffersonville facility, they're going to keep it shut down until the end of the year, while they further assess it," Fleming said. "It was more than an inconvenience for people, especially at this time of year. And I'm glad that the company is indicating that they will compensate people."

The gas company said it has ceased operations at its Jeffersonville propane air facility for the remainder of 2023 to prevent the issue from happening again.

CenterPoint Energy says there are "no signs that any incorrect mixture remains in our system."

Anyone who has concerns about the condition or operation of their natural gas appliances is asked to contact the company via email or call (713) 207-7724 for assistance. 

CenterPoint Energy said it has worked closely with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) throughout the investigation and will fully cooperate and comply with any directives IURC deems appropriate following its analysis of the incident.

"We will continue to assess our operations and take appropriate corrective actions to prevent incidents like this in the future," the company said. "We would like to express our gratitude to the first responders and emergency personnel for their support and response to the carbon monoxide calls in Clarksville, New Albany and Jeffersonville. We would also like to thank the IURC, local and state elected officials, and the public for their patience as the investigation was completed."

Clarksville Mayor Kevin Baity said the city is "encouraged to finally have answers."

"We would like to commend CenterPoint Energy for working diligently to determine the cause and to prevent it from happening again," he said. "The Town of Clarksville will continue work with the [IURC] and CenterPoint Energy as they continue to assess their operations and take the appropriate corrective actions to guarantee the safety of our residents."

Representative Fleming says for anyone impacted by the Christmas weekend incident should keep on file any important invoices or data collected in the time since to submit to CenterPoint's website, for proper compensation.

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