June 2019, Vol. 246, No. 6

Global News

NTSB Reveals Findings of 3-Year Gas Explosion Investigation

A gas company’s faulty equipment is the most likely cause of an explosion at a suburban Maryland apartment complex that killed seven people in 2016, according to federal report.

The explosion and fire at the Flower Branch apartments in Silver Spring caused a partial building collapse and sent 68 people, including three firefighters, to the hospital.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the cause for nearly three years, ultimately concluding that a faulty regulator left unconnected to a vent pipe inside a basement meter room most likely caused the explosion.

Washington Gas, the company responsible for maintaining the equipment the NTSB blames for the explosion, has disputed the board’s findings.

Washington Gas President and CEO Adrian Chapman issued a statement saying the utility remains saddened by the tragedy and committed to safety but disagrees with the findings.

The board’s findings do not just point a finger at Washington Gas. As a result of multiple communication gaps and missed opportunities to prevent the explosion, the NTSB is recommending that 911 dispatchers automatically call the gas company any time a person calls to report the smell of natural gas, rather than relying on the public to make the call.

Among the other NTSB recommendations: installing regulators outside rather than inside so any venting occurs safely into the atmosphere, and an expedited phaseout of the mercury-based regulators of the kind that were in place at the apartment complex. P&GJ

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