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Meeting to Address Gas Leaks in Arlington

by ARLnow.com March 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm 3,105 19 Comments

Just about every day, the Arlington County Fire Department responds to at least one report of a gas leak, and anecdotal evidence suggests that the leaks might be getting more frequent.

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).

  • Thes

    At the turn of the last century, infrastructure (such as sewer and gas lines) were built to last about 100 years. By the end of WWII they were being built to last about 75 years. By the 1970s and 1980s they were built to last about 30 years. In other words, we have a lot of infrastructure coming due for replacement right about… now.

  • LyonSteve

    Other than hot air, what will this meeting accomplish?

    • Lou

      Some people do not know what to do when they smell gas. This will end our long national nightmare with regard to that.

      • borf

        I know exactly what to do – blame it on someone else.

  • SoCo Resident

    How wonderful that the the Columbia Heights Civic Association is concerned about safety, and perhaps this public awareness meeting might even save lives or property. They, the Fire Department and Gas Company should be applauded for working together for safety’s sake. Meanwhile, the Lyon Park Citizen’s Association is berating the County for thinking about fire safety over ease of parking. We are blessed with a highly trained and professional fire marshall and department; we ought to respect them and their advice.

  • steve

    It sucks that I can’t smoke next to a leaking gas line! Sissies!

  • CMC

    I had a gas leak inside my house this weekend and a neighbor had one two weeks ago. Strange stuff going on. Glad to see the Civic Association having this meeting.

  • This is a burgeoning problem, not just in Arlington but across the country. Learn more about it here: http://www.naturalgaswatch.org.

  • kingindc

    I can smell gas in front of my house every day. I’ve called it in to the gas company, but have not seen any work done to address it. It’s very frustrating, and I’m not clear, as a homeowner, how dangerous this could be or what the accountability mechanism is.

    • Dan

      Not saying that this is anywhere near this bad, but remember when this happened out in SF ??
      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ad6_1284091377

    • 222014Ever

      You can do what we did in Arlington After many calls to the Dominion Gas about a leak at the end of our driveway, they would send someone out to test, verified there was a leak, but leak was not fixed due to other priorities (there was some work, but smell remained and they got a little tired of dealing with us) – employees were all very professional and friendly. People walking by would always ring our door to tell us about the leak. We ended up posting a sign on the telephone pole near the leak asking pedestrians to call if they smell gas. Leak was fixed within a week.

  • Charlie

    I thought all the gas in Arlington came from the third floor of 2100 Clarendon. Oh wait, that is just hot air, a gas, but not THE gas

  • JimPB

    There apparently are a number of outdoor gas leaks near a house I own near the Forest Glen Metro station in Maryland. The leaking gas can not always be smelled, but its presence is made known by the death of trees and other plants under and near the leaks.

  • Lulu

    If you smell a gas leak, do what we did, call the fire department. Then they will call the Washington Gas people, and then hopefully, as happened to us, they fix the leak. That is how this whole thing started…with our gas leak in front of The Commons of Arlington, as that happened at the same time as a couple of explosions around the country killed people. So we have old infrastructure and a need to understand where exactly the gas lines in Arlington run. If you smell a leak don’t ignore it.

  • DarkHeart

    Our house is full of human produced Nitrogen, Methane and Hydrog

  • Lulu

    You need to open the windows DarkHeart

  • Skeptical

    Another danger aside from actual degradation of the gas lines themselves is structural settling. Apparently my old house (just post-WWII) had sunk in the ground a few inches and stressed the connection right at the wall. Fortunately it was a repair that could be made from inside the house, but two joints had to be fixed in the end, a year apart. I’m pretty sure the recent attachment of a new meter and regulator, which was a rolling upgrade that Washington Gas did a few years back, had something to do with the timing of the problem, so if you’ve had that work done in your house, check.

    A little Mason jar full of shaken soapsud solution applied with a paintbrush will tell you if any gas is escaping at junctions.

  • Arlwhenever

    Gas leaks aren’t actually much more prevalent than they’ve ever been — the problem is detection. In the not so old days, meter readers regularly traced routes through all areas, using their trained eyes and noses to detect leaks and irregularites as they went about their business of number collection. I recall the reader detecting leaks a couple of times at the pipe entering my home that I would have never noticed. A lot of this so-called smart-meter, smart-grid stuff, isn’t so smart after all.

  • Pingback: Natural Gas Explosion Roundup — It Happens More Often Than You Think - Natural Gas Watch.org()

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