Washington Gas Company fined $750,000 for 2016 building explosion


The scene of an apartment building fire in Silver Spring, Md., Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD (WDVM) – The Maryland Public Service Commission fined Washington Gas Company $750,000 after the company failed to inform the commission of its abandonment of a mercury service regulator replacement program.

Back in August 2016, a natural gas-fueled explosion and fire partially collapsed an apartment building, causing a number of injuries and seven fatalities.

The National Transportation Safety Board conducted a formal investigation and found that the probable cause of the explosion was the failure of a mercury service regulator owned by Washington Gas Light Company, according to a civil order document.

In 2003, the gas company planned to replace all mercury service regulators in their jurisdiction over the next 10 years, but failed to do so. Commissioner of Maryland Public Service Commission Michael Richard accused the company of abandoning the project and never informing the commission.

“In my opinion, the Company’s failure to complete the MSRRP warrants a separate civil penalty in addition to a failure to report penalty, as recommended by both staff and OPC,” Richard said in the document.

Washington Gas now seeks Commission approval of its proposed Mercury Service Regulator replacement program. Under that program, the company proposes to issue two requests for proposals: the first to survey the remaining numbers of mercury service regular, the second to initiate the removal of multi-family unit mercury service regulator within three years and others within five years.

Washington Gas is unable to provide an estimated cost of its program.

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