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Baltimore Gas Explosion Kills 2, Injures Several

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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A gas explosion in Northwest Baltimore on Monday morning has killed two people and seriously injured at least seven others, according to officials.

While the cause is still unknown, local reports have been documenting the city’s aging gas infrastructure, which was installed in the 1960s.

What Happened

At around 9:45 a.m. Monday morning, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. received a call from the Baltimore City Fire Department to respond to the scene of a gas explosion in the Reisterstown Station neighborhood.

The Baltimore firefighters union characterized the explosion as a “major three-alarm incident,” which is typically designated for large-scale fires, medical emergencies or rescue operations. According to reports, more than 200 personnael from the Baltimore City Fire Department, Baltimore County Fire Department and Howard County Fire Department responded to the scene.

By noon, one woman was confirmed dead and four people had been transported to a hospital in serious condition. Three more people would be recovered from the rubble—which included the complete flattening of at least three homes—before the day ended. The second body was recovered late Monday night.

At 9 p.m. Monday, BGE released a statement thanking fire responders nothing that the scene remained an active emergency recovery effort.

“Public safety is our first priority,” BGE said. “Our crews have now inspected the Labyrinth Road gas main and canvassed all surrounding buildings. No gas readings were found in any of the buildings and no leaks were found on the Labyrinth Road gas main or services. Our crews are continuing to inspect area gas mains and services for safety and will make any necessary repairs if any issues are found.

“All gas service is off to a portion of the 4200 block of Labyrinth Road. This is a standard safety procedure to aid in emergency response efforts and to ensure safety. Some electric lines in the area were damaged and crews have repaired those lines to restore power to all nearby residents who lost power.”

Infrastructure

BGE reiterated that the cause of the explosion is still unknown, and highlighted a few notes from its records, including:

  • That area’s gas infrastructure was installed in the early 1960s;
  • No gas odors were reported prior to the event;
  • The company did not receive any recent gas odor calls from the block of homes that were damaged; and
  • The company’s most recent inspection of the gas mains and services in the area occurred in June and July of 2019 and did not identify any leaks.

The company also noted that there would be a full inspection once rescue efforts concluded.

By noon Tuesday, BGE released another statement, saying that it was turning its records over to investigators, adding: "The data is indicative of some type of issue beyond the BGE meter on customer-owned equipment and is currently being analyzed by investigators. We will continue to work closely with the Fire Department and investigators to inspect equipment at the scene. We are committed to cooperating fully with the investigators in finding the cause of the explosion."

The Baltimore Sun reported last year that natural gas had increasingly been leaking out of old pipes (about two dozen are reported per day) and reported that at the current rate of reported leaks, it would take BGE at least two decades to replace all the pipes.

According to data from BGE, the number of leaks have increased by 75% from 2009 to 2016, and officials called the hike a dramatic increase in the failure of pipe joints.

The Sun noted that BGE’s Vice President for gas distribution, Chris Burton, testified before the Maryland Public Service Commission in May with an update on the city’s infrastructure.

According to Burton, about one-third of the gas distribution mains, one-quarter of its gas services and half of its transmission mains are older than 50 years old. About 15% of its system is made of “outmoded materials.”

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Explosions; Fatalities; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Safety

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