Businesses without natural gas as Monument St. sinkhole assessed

At least 15 businesses and second-story apartments along East Monument Street could be without natural gas for weeks after a line feeding their home was taken out of service Wednesday during the collapse of an underground storm tunnel.

"We understand that it could be weeks before we can reestablish service," said Rob Gould, a BGE spokesman.

The damaged brick tunnel caused a large sinkhole to open on East Monument just east of Johns Hopkins Hospital, closing the road between North Patterson Park Avenue and North Milton Avenue.

According to Gould, BGE was forced to shut off a power main feeding 15 meters in the area late Wednesday, after previously saying there was no service interruption.

"Upon more examination of the sink hole itself, there was no comfort that we could keep that main in service with the damage that had surrounded it," Gould said. "It was just too dangerous with the damage around it."

A strong smell of gas had filled the area Wednesday.

The 15 meters likely serve "more than just 15 customers" on the street, which has apartments above street-level shops, Gould said, but he did not know how many customers were affected.

Meanwhile, crews with the city's public works department continued Thursday to assess the sinkhole — which is about 2 feet wide, 6 feet long and 20 feet deep — and develop a strategy to begin repairs to it, said Kurt Kocher, a department spokesman.

The tunnel, a 10-foot storm-drainage culvert, dates to 1901, Kocher said, not to 1930 as previously thought.

Crews were using ground-penetrating radar to check for other voids under the roadway, Kocher said.

"That's cost-effective and also non-intrusive, so you don't have to dig up the road," he said.

Aside from the damaged tunnel, a small nearby water main was also discovered to be leaking, Kocher said. A nearby sewer line was not damaged.

Kocher had no estimate late Thursday of when the repairs would be complete or the road reopened, he said.

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