Hundreds of residents of the Barry Farms public housing project in Southeadt Washington have been without hot water and working stoves since June 19 because of repair work on the 36-year-old project's deteriorating gas lines.
City officials and repair men on the scene said that service had been restored to 150 units, housing about 760 residents, as of yesterday evening.
But it is Hell on earth" for the other 1,000 or so Barry Farms residents who are still without gas and hot water said Bolden Smith of 1187 Stevens Rd. SE.
"I can't cook no decent bath with cold can't take a decent bath with cold water and the way gasoline is I can't afford to drive to a relative's every day to cook or bathe either," Smith said. "I'm just sick of this whole thing."
The "whole thing" started on June 19 when a resident in one unit reported to Washington Gas Light Co. that she smelled gas around her home. After an inspection revealed there was a gas leak, the company, following customary safety procedures, ordered the gas lines serving the unit to shut off until repairs were made.
However, the entire complex of two-story brick, sngle-family homes had to be stripped of gas service because the gas lines were not separately zoned. All are attached to a single destributer.
On the evening of the first day without gas service, residents were not very upset, said Mary Thomas, a block captain at Barry Farms.
"We just thought the gas was cut off for a short time because they were working on the lines. Just like when your water gets cut off for a short while sometimes," she said.
The second day, Jasper Burnett, assistant manager, called a meeting of all 60 block captains, who help manage the property, and told them that there was a crisis and the gas would be off for "some time," Thomas said.
Burnette later sought help from the Red Cross and the District Emergency Command Center th feed the residents ranging from children to the elderly, lined up in front of food trucks to be fed.
"All we got was a small hamburger and a soda and you know that don't fill nobody up," Thomas said.
Jerome Walker, acting administrator of the National Capital Housing Property Management Administration, said the emergency food service was terminated because of complaints and residents were issued hot plates to do their own cooking.
"Using one of these hot plates is like being in forest without matches.
You just can't cook with them, said Laura Mae Goldsmith, who is commonly referred to as the Major of CAPTION: Picture 1, Bolden Smith express disdain for the effectiveness of a hot plate issued to residents for cooling. Photos by Fred Sweets -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, Laura Mae Goldsmith cares for six children and grandchildre Jevaughn Wright 2, in an apartmetn without gas. Barry Farms."
Caring for the six children and one grandchild who live with her in her small four-bedroom Barry Farms home has been a "trying experience" because of the lack of gas and hot water, Goldsmith said.
But it "hasn't been that difficult for me because I was raised in the country and I'm used to heating up water for baths and things like that. The hot plate is always cutting off. And I hate to feed my children cold meals though. They're used to at least two hot meals a day.
"It's really a mess because the fast food restaurants get to cost a lot to feed a family all week," she said.
Goldsmith said the cost of feeding her family has forced her to spend money that otherwise would go toward her $129 monthly rent. Rent varies according to income at the project.
While Goldsmith and hundreds of others wait, repairman from James Vito Plumbing and Heating Co. said they are working day and night to restore the residents' services.
At 6 p.m. yesterday about 270 of the 432 units had gas and hot water again, said Joe Kosak, a plumber. "We expect to finish work on 102 more units by the end of today," he said.
It has taken an unusually long time to repair the gas leaks becuase Vito Plumbing, lacking to tools to locate underground leakage, had to ask the gas company to find the leaks so the plumbers could repair them.
The complex is owned by the city government, but much of the underground gas controlled by Washington Gas, company representative Susan Butz said.
The company is not authorized to work on the parts of the gas price system that it does not own, so the city had to hire a private plumbing company
Completion of the repair work also is being delayed because workmen are installing vlaves in the pipeline so that in the event of a future leak in one area the whole system will not have to be shut down.
Walker said he has been trying since early May to get HUD funds to replace the pipelines at Barry Farms, the city'd oldest housing projet "We're trying to upgrade the system so this thing will not have to happen again" he said.