In Wheeling proper natural gas for household purposes is furnished only by the Natural Gas Company of West Virginia, which also supplies manufacturing establishments. As fast as the pipe can be secured it is being laid, the intention being to pipe every street without delay, and bring to the door of rich and poor the inestimable boon of the cheapest and best fuel. As pipe-laying proceeds connection with the main is made for every house, so that wherever the gas is wanted there is no tearing up to do beyond the curb line.
The sagacious presumption of the company is that sooner or later everybody will take gas who can get it, and that as soon as the people realize the change that has come over life within doors they will make a rush for their share of the benefits.
From the first of May to the first of October no charge is made for the use of natural gas for any household purpose whatever, though the gas may be consumed in unlimited quantity. During this period the gas company stands back to give the ice man a chance. From the first of October to the first of May the charge is $1 80 a month for a cooking stove or range; for the first heating stove or grate, $1 53. A person desiring to use natural gas in his house fills out and signs the form of application provided by the company. In his application he states how many and what kind of fires he will have. He also subscribes to the following for the protection of both the company and the consumer:
1. The Natural Gas Company of West Virginia will make the necessary connections with its gas main and carry same to the curb of pavement, but all other connections and appliances for the purpose of utilizing the gas from that point shall be at the cost of the consumer, and shall be, as to character, condition and arrangement, at all times subject to the approval of the company's inspector.
2. The consumer shall use all due care so as to prevent any waste of gas. And that the company may properly guard its interests, it is necessary that it shall, at all reasonable times be authorized agent (who will be provided with a certificate, signed by the superintendent of the company) have free access to the premises in which the gas is used, to determine if it is being carried, distributed and burned in a proper manner, and in accordance with the rules and regulations, and the company reserves the right to measure the gas used and to shut off the supply for any of the following reasons: 1st, for repairs; 2d, for want of supply; 3d, for non-payment of bill, when due; 4th, for fraudulent representations in relation to consumption of gas; 5th, for waste of the gas.
3. In case the supply of gas should fail, whether from failure of wells, bursting of pipe, or any other cause, the company shall not be liable for damage by reason of such failure, nor shall it be liable in any event for damage to person or property arising, according or resulting from the use of gas.
4. Consumers are not permitted to use the gas for illuminating purposes, or for any purpose, or in any place, other than is provided for in the contract, without having first obtained the written consent of the company, and arranged to pay additional compensation therefor.
5. In case of deficiency of gas, or detection of leaks, notice of the fact should be given forthwith at the office of the company, that the defect may be remedied without delay.
6. Bills must be settled at the office of the company within the time specified in the contract, or the gas may be turned off without further notice. It is expressly stipulated, that in all cases where gas is contracted for at an annual rate, the consumer promises to pay until expiration of contract, whether he consumes the gas or not, and that the privilege of discontinuance contained in contract shall only apply to gas contracted for at a monthly rate.
7. Inspectors, agents or any employee of the company are expressly forbidden to demand or accept any compensation for services rendered.
8. Contracts are not transferable. New occupants are required to make application in person at the office of the company at the time they commence the use of gas, to avoid being liable for back dues for all gas supplied until such notice was given.
9. The company may demand the removal or repair of any burner or exit pipe that it may deem injurious to its interests, and the consumer agrees to comply with such demand.
10. Any failure on the part of the consumer to comply with these rules and regulations shall annul this contract at the discretion of the company.
It is furthermore agreed that the company shall furnish meter burners necessary for using gas under this contract, which shall continue the property of the company, and the consumer agrees upon the discontinuance of the use of said gas to return the same or pay the company the sum of two dollars for each meter burner so furnished. The consumer also agrees to pay for connections from the curb to the gas regulator (if a regulator is used), and to put in such gas regulator as The Natural Gas Company of West Virginia may designate.
Upon written notice to the company filed in its office at the end of any month, and upon payment for all gas consumed to that date, the consumer may temporarily discontinue, for one or more months, in whole or in part, the use of gas taken at monthly rate as above, and at a subsequent date, with the consent of company, may again resume the same, or may terminate the contract entirely; and if the use of gas be continued on the premises after 1st April, 1887, without a new contract being made, then this contract shall continue in force for another year thereafter, and so on from year to year.
Appreciating that natural gas is a new force in this community, and that ignorance or carelessness may result in great damage, the company has prepared further rules and regulations:
When natural gas is to be introduced into dwellings, stores, offices, etc., the following rules must be observed by the parties doing the fitting work:
All pipes must be tested by the gas company's inspector with mercury column to ten (10) pounds pressure, from end of line where connection is made, to end of pipes under grates, stoves, etc.
The fitter should have his pump on and see that the pipes are perfectly tight before sending for the inspector.
The ends of pipes under grates, stoves, etc., should first be capped, so as to allow the stop-cocks to be tested; then remove the caps and see if the cocks allow the gas to leak.
In no case shall a fire test be used in dwellings, offices, stores, etc. No cement of any kind shall be used for repairing faulty fittings or work.
When any attempt to hide leaks is made, the name of the fitter will be kept on record at this office, and future work done by him will not be approved without rigid examination.
In running pipes in buildings, no set rules can be given, except that pipes in all cases, when possible, be so placed that they can be easily inspected; and that in case of accident any leaking gas may escape easily.
Cement wall carefully where service pipe enters the building, and use a large pipe for the main that runs through the cellar. Provide valves to shut off gas from all risers. In running pipes through flues great care is necessary, and lead pipe for the beds should not be used.
Do not run pipes between floors or walls when any other method can be employed. Do not place cocks between floors and ceilings. Do not use any valves which require packing at the stem, in places where leaking gas may be dangerous. If pipes run outside of walls, provide a drip.
Allow plenty of air under grates, so that the hearthstone may not get too hot. Set the back tile in grate so that the unburnt gases will be directed up the chimney, and not allowed to enter the room.
In fitting up a building all gas fitters will be required to furnish the gas company with a statement giving the number of fires fitted up, and also any additional fires that may be connected afterwards in the same building, so that a complete record may be had at this office.
It should be borned in mind that a leak of natural gas is not so perciptible as of artificial gas, on account of the very slight odor arising from it; and more care should be taken in piping a building for its use.
Notify the inspector before connecting to the curb stop, and test service pipe from street to house before filling ditch.
Place a good heavy stop cock inside of wall, and connect to riser with a right and left coupling, or a flange union packed with asbestos packing. Common lip unions will not be allowed.
Place a ground joint, or an American metallic packed union, conveniently between valve and mixer.
Where globe valves are used at fires, the stems must be packed with asbestos packing.
The ends of all nipples and pipes between mixers and burners must be reamed or countersunk in order to allow a free passage of air and gas to burner.
Place a damper in all stove pipes and chimney throats, unless considered unnecessary by the company's inspector.
These regulations are not capricious or onerous. They are the result of experienced observation elsewhere, and they ought to be cheerfully compiled with, as no doubt they will be by those who take the trouble to be familiar with them.
Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Sept. 14, 1886
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.