More than half the natural gas connections in the Waterville area inspected by Summit Natural Gas of Maine since December were found to have been improperly installed, and the company has already replaced more than 60 connections, mostly to homes, documents filed with the state Public Utilities Commission reveal.

Electrofusion tees, a piece of equipment that connect individual service lines to the gas main, were incorrectly installed by contractors hired by Summit during its ambitious natural gas buildout in the Kennebec Valley.

The company’s May 1 report to the PUC states that 82 out of the 144 tees inspected by the company in Waterville, Fairfield and Madison — about 57 percent — failed a visual inspection. Most of the tees were replaced within two days, but 21 were still waiting to be replaced as of last Friday.

The company “initially targeted the electrofusion tees with the greatest likelihood of needing replacement,” said Summit spokesperson Tammy Poissonnier in an interview Monday.

“We went to the ones we felt would fail first,” she said.

A visual inspection involves digging up a section of gas line and checking to see if the pipe was prepared according to specified procedures before the tee was installed. If the equipment fails the visual test, the company turns off gas service to the connected customer as the tee is replaced, a process that can take up to 12 hours.

Summit intends to inspect 434 tees installed in the three communities over the next few months. Large commercial customers, such as Huhtamaki, a paper products company straddling the Waterville-Fairfield line, will not be impacted by the inspections because they hook up to the main line using a different type of equipment, Poissonnier said. Not every tee inspected is connected to an active gas customer, she said.

Incorrectly installed tees have resulted in one gas leak since November. The company tests its lines every 75 days to check for leaks, the spokeswoman said.

The company expects to complete all replacements by the beginning of August, according to Poissonnier.

“The work is not affecting our expansion and buildout plans for the year,” Poissonnier said in a recent email. “We’ve brought in additional resources to complete the inspection and replacement work.”

Summit is no longer working with the contractor that installed the tees being inspected, CCB Inc. of Westbrook, and Poissonnier would not discuss further issues with the contractor or answer whether litigation was planned.

“Due to ongoing legal and regulatory discussions, we cannot elaborate in any more detail regarding the contractor involved with this work,” Poissonnier said.

CCB did not respond to a voicemail left Monday afternoon.

Concern about tee installation was sparked when the PUC issued a notice of probable violation to Summit in July 2014 after tees in Augusta and Hallowell failed pressure tests. Tetra Tech, a national company with offices in Portland hired to install the tees, later sued Summit in federal court for breach of contract. Summit countersued, claiming that Tetra Tech used unqualified workers on the project.

Problems in Waterville, Madison and Fairfield were uncovered in December, when the company disclosed to the PUC that a tee had blown off as gas was introduced to the main on Lawrence Avenue in Fairfield. Another tee was found to be leaking when the main was tested in Waterville.

In response, the commission required Summit to inspect all the tees installed by CCB for flaws.

According to the May 1 report, Summit inspected 18 tees between Nov. 27 and Dec. 31, mainly along Lawrence Avenue in Fairfield and neighborhoods off Jacobs Drive in Waterville. Ten of the tees failed the inspections and were replaced.

Another 34 tees were inspected in the two towns from Jan. 2-13, and six of those devices failed.

The majority of inspections have been conducted in the past three weeks.

Of the 92 tees checked since April 15, 66 failed the inspection. Of those, 53 were in Waterville, three were in Fairfield and 10 were in Madison.

Crews from ETTI, a utility construction firm from Lisbon Falls, have been contracted with Summit to replace the tees.

The failed tee installations come after other issues with Summit’s performance on the gasline installation project.

In December, the company agreed to pay a $25,000 fine to resolve charges that it used unqualified contractors and then falsified a test to make it look like the workforce had the correct certification. Summit is also facing a $150,000 charge for allegedly damaging sewer lines in Augusta and Gardiner and may be responsible for at least $30,000 in fines for the electrofusion tee issue.

The utilities commission has not completed its investigation into the sewer and tee problems, said Harry Lanphear, the commission’s administrative director.

Commission staff will wait until the company finishes inspecting and replacing tees before recommending possible action, Lanphear said. While investigators have not reached any conclusions as to why the same problem came up with two different contractors, commission staff are conducting regular spot checks on Summit’s replacement work.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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