The county’s gas infrastructure includes older gas lines from the 1930s and 1940s that may be especially prone to failure. This winter, changes in temperatures have been especially unkind.
Most leaks are reported to be outside and underground. Generally, those are less dangerous, although larger leaks can sometimes prompt authorities to cordon off the area around the leak. Occasionally, the leak is inside a building, which is usually considered more dangerous due to the potential for the gas to build up in the structure. Inside gas leaks often require the building to be evacuated.
All gas leaks are costly in terms of repairs, which often require digging, and the expended time of first responders.
To address the issue, the Columbia Heights Civic Association will be holding a public meeting on Monday, March 14 called “Natural Gas Leaks — What Can We Do?” The meeting, which is open to residents of all Arlington communities, will address the larger gas leak problem as well as the question of what one should do if they smell gas.
“People are not really aware of what to do,” said Sara McKinley, who’s organizing the meeting. “We really need to encourage people when they smell gas… to call it in.”
A representative from Washington Gas will be in attendance.
“Washington Gas will participate in the meeting to discuss natural gas safety and reliability,” said Ruben Rodriguez, the company’s director of corporate communications. ” The company will also address questions from those attending the meeting.”
McKinley says Arlington is “plagued” by gas leaks, but the meeting won’t be able assigning blame.
“This isn’t a question of bashing the gas company,” she said. “If anything, we want to be supportive.”
Last month Washington Gas requested permission from the state of Virginia to impose a 6 percent rate hike, citing the cost of “infrastructure investments” among other rising expenses.
Washington Gas advises anyone who smells natural gas to “leave the area immediately… call 911 and Washington Gas at (703) 750-1400 or 1 (800) 752-7520.”
The March 14 meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street South).