Utility to pay $347,000 in Georgia coffee shop explosion

A natural gas utility would pay $347,000 under a proposed settlement with Georgia regulators who found safety violations linked to a 2018 explosion that destroyed a coffee shop in a rural city.

WALB-TV reports the Georgia Public Service Commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the settlement proposal with Atlanta Gas Light. Commission staff last year had called for a $2.3 million civil penalty.

(Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's Office / Supplied)

Regulators found the utility committed safety violations before and after the Aug. 17, 2018, explosion that demolished The Coffee Corner in rural Homerville near the Georgia-Florida state line. Three women inside the shop suffered serious injuries.

Investigators determined a crew installing fiber optic cable nearby ruptured a natural gas line and an adjacent sewer line. Gas seeped through the damaged sewer line into the coffee shop, fueling the explosion.

Investigators found the gas utility had not properly located and marked its buried gas lines ahead of the construction project. They also failed to check surrounding buildings for gas accumulation after capping the ruptured gas line.


(Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's Office)

Under the settlement, the company admitted no wrongdoing or liability. The company released a statement saying it is pleased “to come to a mutually acceptable resolution with the Georgia Public Service Commission,” and that safety is its highest priority.

The money would go toward training and equipping emergency responders, said PSC spokesman Tom Krause, as well as pay for workshops to train water and sewer providers on locating utility lines.