Official Mike Leontiades explained at the meeting that having the shutoff valves could reduce the risk of catastrophic fire in the case of a quake.
Structural weaknesses in buildings, the absence of appliance anchoring equipment, and the lack of flexible gas pipe connections could lead to a greater possibility of natural gas leaks during an earthquake, said Leontiades. Subsequent aftershocks, coupled with leaks, could spark massive fires that could seriously damage homes and businesses throughout town.
Leontiades said installing the seismic gas shutoff valves would greatly reduce that risk. It would also reduce the burden on emergency service officials, allowing them to react to the damage and injury caused by the initial quake.
"These valves would reduce the need for water, firefighters and other emergency services," he said.
In the event of a quake greater than 5.0 on the Richter scale, the valve would automatically shut off the flow of gas into the home. Leontiades said the shutoff valve could be reset manually once the risk of fire has been mitigated.
The ordinance presented would mandate that any new construction be outfitted with the seismic shutoff valves, as well as any home undergoing renovation or remodeling at a cost of $15,000 or more.
During a public hearing on the ordinance, several residents spoke on the issue. Many felt the ordinance was a good idea but did not go far enough in preventing potential gas-related fires.
"I think we should consider making this a house-to-house, business-to-business mandate," said resident Glen Benson. "Downtown, old town, the west side and some parts of the east side, the houses are close enough together that if we have an earthquake there's going to be a firestorm. Danville's downtown is going to be hard hit."
Some residents questioned the effectiveness of the devices. One man said he was concerned about the shutoff valve being triggered by the slamming of a garage door. Another suggested using a different type of device called an Excess Flow Valve. The ESV would be triggered by a significant change in the amount of gas flowing downstream.
Council members said they supported the ordinance but split over how it should be implemented. Mayor Mike Shimansky suggested broadening the ordinance so that in addition to building permits and new construction, it would include homes that are resales as well. The other council members agreed the valve was a good idea but suggested they wait to approve it until they had a chance to discuss it with the real estate community.
The council deadlocked 2-2 over the issue of adding the resale element, with Shimansky and Councilwoman Candace Andersen ready to make the change. Councilman Newell Arnerich was absent.
The ordinance was sent back to staff to draft language to include resale homes. The issue is expected to be addressed further at the council meeting May 1.