Thousands of gas leaks discovered in 2011 are responsible for $15 million to $20 million in damage to trees in the District of Columbia, according to natural gas safety expert Robert Ackley of Gas Safety Inc. in Southborough, Massachusetts. Now Ackley is returning to Georgetown this coming Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 8 to 10, to update his research using top-of-the line measuring equipment.
Ackley will drive through hundreds of D.C. streets, measuring trees with sensitive instruments that can detect as little as 10 parts per million of natural gas or propane. The cavity ring-down spectroscopy equipment detects and documents methane in parts per billion and tags each reading with global positioning coordinates that can be plotted on Google Earth.
“Ackley will share the results of his research with Georgetown ANC commissioners and other public officials,” said Edward Segal, a longtime Georgetown resident who has made his concerns about the District’s aging gas lines and leaks public through his blog GasLeaksUSA. Ackley contacted Segal after a series of articles in The Georgetowner, Segal said.
Ackley’s consulting firm has tested for gas leaks across the country. In 2014, he helped conduct a study sponsored by Stanford and Duke Universities that found there were almost 6,000 gas leaks in the nation’s capital that were also damaging the District’s trees.
But “while it is important to periodically assess the impact of natural gas leaks on trees, it is urgent that we identify and stop those leaks in order to prevent further damage,” Ackley said. He has called bare metal pipelines “a ticking time bomb. The steel is going to corrode. It’s only a matter of time before it rusts out.”