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In Search of Safer Gas

Rosalind Helderman

A Prince George's task force on gas safety recommended on Tuesday that every home using natural gas in the county be equipped with a device to detect gas leaks, that more state inspectors be hired to examine pipelines and that fines for improperly digging in rights-of-way be increased.

The task force was formed in response to a spectucular 2005 explosion that destroyed a District Heights home. No one was injured but the fiery blast focused attention on pipeline roblems in Prince George's County, where utility officials acknowledged above average reports of gas leaks. The task force, chaired by former county public safety director and county council member M.H. Jim Estepp, spent almost two years reviewing records and interviewing experts on gas safety.

It noted that there are still competing theories as to the cause of the leak that caused the District Heights explosion and recommended that a single agency be assigned the responsbility for drawing conclusions when incidents like the fire occur.

It also suggested that utility companies issue annual "state of the system" reports to update government on the health of their infrastructure and that Miss Utility, the group that maps underground cables and pipes, keep data on companies that repeatedly hit lines while digging.

A representative for Washington Gas said the company is preparing a written response to the task force report and declined comment until it is complete.

Copies of the gas safety report can be requested from the clerk of the County Council.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  October 10, 2007; 6:14 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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