Gas Detectors Not 'Practical,' Utility Says

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 26, 2005

After a District Heights house exploded about two months ago because of leaking gas, members of the Prince George's County Council thought it would be a good idea for Washington Gas to provide gas detectors (free or at cost) to residents who have smelled gas in their neighborhoods.

But, last week, Washington Gas officials said that may sound like a good idea, but it is not "a practical solution" to the 1,400 gas leaks that have occurred in a 100-square-mile area of the county.

The answer did not go over well with the council.

"I am extremely disappointed that there will be no gas detectors given to the homes," said council member David Harrington (D-Cheverly). "I don't buy the answer that this is a frivolous expense. . . . If it allows people to sleep at night, I think it is well worth the cost."

Roberta Sims , vice president of corporate relations for Washington Gas, recently wrote to council Chairman Samuel H. Dean to explain the utility's decision.

"The logistics of installation clearly could be problematic," Sims wrote. "Other issues of concern would be any distribution of detectors, warranties, sensor replacement and liability."

Sims said the utility is spending $87 million to repair the deteriorating rubber seals that are causing the leaks. "We understand the council's interest in providing a means for customers to detect a natural gas leak," she said. "It is our view, however, that the odorant that is injected into the gas stream, as required by federal and state regulations, provides the most reliable source of detecting the presences of natural gas in the atmosphere."

A 'Friend-Raiser' for Leggett

Artis Hampshire-Cowan , a resident of Mitchellville and senior vice president and secretary of Howard University, recently hosted a "friend-raiser/fundraiser" for Isiah "Ike" Leggett, a former Montgomery County Council member who is running for Montgomery County executive.

"I believe in him, in his character, intelligence and competency," said Hampshire-Cowan, a board member of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, "You don't always have that consistency in elected officials. . . . He's a collaborator, and there's a need for collaborative leadership in this region."

Cowan, who has known Leggett since 1980, called on another mutual friend -- presidential portrait artist Simmie Knox -- to participate in the event. Knox donated a piece of artwork for a private auction.

"I have respect and admiration for him," said Knox, a resident of Montgomery County, who occasionally meets Leggett at the farmers market in Burtonsville. "He's sort of a neighbor of mine and I wanted to support the effort."

Knox's work, valued at $750, sold for $3,020, which took the artist by surprise.

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