Study finds nearly 6,000 natural gas leaks in DC

Study finds nearly 6,000 natural gas leaks in DC

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WASHINGTON -

A new study has found there are nearly 6,000 natural gas leaks across the District and aging pipelines are to blame.

Researchers believe those leaks could cause an explosion if they come in contact with a pipe.

The researchers used special equipment and inspected every street in D.C. measuring the amount of natural gas coming up from the ground.

One researcher told FOX 5 that in some areas, all it would take was a match or spark to ignite the gas.

We see it across the District -- new development rising up -- but underground, it's a different story. Old sewer and gas lines are failing.

“I was the one who smelled it and called it in,” said Jennay Ghowrwal.


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She said the scent of gas was so strong in her neighborhood, she called to report it. It is in the same part of town where researchers also found high levels of gas.

“It was pretty alarming, and I told one of our friends coming over to just to be careful if it smells really noticeably gassy,” she said.

A team of researchers, including Duke University professor Robert Jackson, spent a lot of time using special equipment and vehicle to take natural gas measurements across the city.

“The key message from me isn't alarm, it's action,” Jackson said.

The team is hoping this study will prompt repair or replacement of leaking lines for public safety and to stop damage to the environment.

The leaks were so bad in some cases, the researchers said they didn't even have to use their equipment to detect the gas. They could smell it in the air.

“We did map a dozen or so that were dangerous, and yes, those were alarming, but that's a real minority of what we found,” said Jackson.

“This is a worrisome situation,” said D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh.

She has asked her staff to look into this and was told the D.C. Public Service Commission has a special team to investigate and find leaks.

“They say they go out every day to check on leaks and that sort of thing,” said Cheh. “But given this report, I guess they are not doing a good enough job.”

Washington Gas refused an on-camera interview, but sent us an email saying it responds to all gas leak reports. They wrote: “With over 13,000 miles of distribution mains and more than 940,000 service lines in our system, it is not realistic to state that there are no leaks."

One thing that had Cheh concerned is that researchers apparently notified Washington Gas about these leaks, and then went back out in a couple of months later and tested some of these areas, and the gas levels were the same.

Online:

Read the study here

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