As of Nov. 15, reported gas leaks in Georgetown’s East Side numbered 63. Some seem to be low-grade leaks from old pipes, but not all, according to Edward Segal, a neighbor who diligently inquires about and tracks every reported gas leak in his area. “Some are deemed ‘emergencies,’ but there is little information on them,” he said.
Segal’s blog, GeorgetownGasLeaks.com, has increasingly been quoted in the Washington Post as the number of gas leaks has become cause for concern. And D.C.’s Office of the People’s Counsel, a city agency that calls itself “your utility lawyer,” has gotten involved.
At the November meeting of the Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commission, held on Oct. 29, the OPC’s Consumer Outreach Specialist Cheryl Morse claimed that the gas leak problems in Georgetown were connected with ongoing maintenance of leaking old joints and unfinished gas repairs.
“Gas leaks are not unique to Georgetown and there are multiple problems throughout city,” Morse noted. But when asked what can be done to stop these leaks, she answered: “I … we … don’t know at this point.”
Segal has not been satisfied with the OPC response to date. “OPC obviously does not know what can be done to stop the leaks because they do not know what’s causing them in the first place,” he wrote The Georgetowner. “But I know an expert [Bob Ackley] from Boston Mass who was involved in the city-wide survey of Washington gas leaks in 2014 that found almost 6,000 leaks beneath DC streets. He provided a report to the ANC and other officials several months ago. He was interviewed last month by several news organizations about the deadly and destructive gas leaks and explosions in the Boston suburbs.”
There are at least three repair sites in Georgetown where, weeks after repair crews left, steel plates still cover the sites, Segal noted. “There is no indication when Washington Gas will return to complete those repairs, remove the steel plates and fill in the holes.”
Segal also sees an “unusual aspect of the Georgetown gas leak saga.” Elected officials are relying on their constituents to do all the work for them on this urgent public safety issue, when in fact they are the ones who should be doing the detailed research, asking the hard questions and taking steps to address the problem, he believes.