By Tuesday afternoon, BGE had repaired or replaced more than 80 percent of the natural gas mains that were damaged after a water pipe broke on Feb. 15, leaving more than 400 Laurel customers without gas.
“With gas, you have to be extra careful,” Jarrett Carter, spokesperson for the utility, said. “You don’t want any kind of line to be compromised.”
More than 2,000 gallons of water, along with debris, had been pumped out of the gas mains by Tuesday, according to a BGE statement.
BGE crews have been working 24-hour shifts to restore gas service to the community, Carter said. Besides repairing and cleaning out the gas lines, the process also requires crews to enter and inspect each residence or business to check lines and reignite gas-fired appliances.
“It’s unbelievable task they’ve got,” said Mayor Craig Moe. “There are holes all over the place as they’re doing lines.”
“You don’t want anybody to be without gas, especially in February,” Carter said. “A lot of neighbors have given access to crew members to come at 2 or 3 in the morning to check their lines.”
While it has not yet been determined why the water main broke, Ayoka Blandford, spokesperson for Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, said pipes typically break due to age, corrosion or wear and tear.
“We have breaks every day in our system,” Blandford said, adding that on Sunday, BGE accidently hit a water pipe while it was repairing its gas line, causing another small break that needed to be repaired.
“All utility service lines are underground and in close proximity to one another,” Blandford said. “Whenever there is an issue of repair, we have to call Miss Utility (a utility locator service) and be careful not to disturb other service lines there.”
Blandford said that WSSC has been meeting internally to look at the incident’s timeline, its response time and lessons learned.
“Those customers are also our customers,” Blandford said. “We will come together to talk about our next steps.”
Moe opened the Robert J. DiPietro Community Center to residents on Sunday and Monday, so they could take showers and warm themselves inside. The Red Cross also opened a Welcome Center at the Partnership Activity Center at the Barkman Kaiser Public Safety Complex to provide meals and snacks to those affected over the weekend.
“Everybody is tired,” Moe said. “Everybody I talked to is waiting for it to be finished. They understand it is a daunting task.”
The city’s recently upgraded Emergency Operation Center was also put into use, according to Stephen Allen Sr., emergency manager.
“It helped us out a lot in this little emergency,” Allen said. “Everything has worked out well. It got us using the systems.”
Residents are also reminded that all BGE employees must carry company ID badges displaying their name, photograph and identification number. If there is any question about an employee, call at 1-800-685-0123.