Gas leak evacuees return to their homes

Residents affected by a gas leak Monday in West Baltimore were allowed to return to their homes early yesterday, as crews with Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. began to repair the damaged main, one of the largest in the utility's natural gas system.

About 75 people in the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Cooks Lane and the 1100 block of Wedgewood Road were evacuated Monday when a contractor hired by the city to repair a water line hit the gas main. Metra Industries, an arm of Spiniello Cos. of Fairfield, N.J., checked with BGE to locate the underground gas main, but workers hit it anyway.


Part of the problem may have been that Metra crews used heavy machinery to dig near the gas main instead of shovels or an excavation vacuum, as required by federal regulations, said Linda Foy, a BGE spokeswoman.

She said that when utility crews were able to inspect the gas main about 9 p.m. Monday, they found one hole in the line. Crews sealed the leak with a 4- to 5-foot metal band and covered that with an 8- to 10-foot metal sleeve. They will coat the sleeve with an anti-corrosive.


Foy estimated that the repair project would be completed last night, but that doesn't mean Metra crews will begin digging again soon.

BGE and city officials will meet today to try to determine what went wrong at the construction site, said Kurt Kocher, a spokesman with the Department of Public Works, which hired Metra to repair the 48-inch water line, a project worth $6.9 million.

Representatives for the contractor also will attend the meeting, Foy said.

Fewer than 10 people from Cooks Lane and Wedgewood Road spent Monday night at the Westside Skills Center, a temporary shelter for displaced families. Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the city Fire Department, said that more people were there earlier in the day, but most found shelter for the night with friends or family.