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Utility says customer's own equipment may have caused Baltimore gas explosion. What could that mean?

Christine Condon, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Gas & Electric said Thursday that its equipment is not to blame for the gas explosion that killed two and injured seven others Monday morning in Northwest Baltimore.

Instead, the company has pointed toward faulty customer-owned equipment as a potential cause for the blast, which leveled three homes and damaged dozens more.

Experts say that customers own all of the gas equipment on their property -- anything beyond BGE's meter. That includes all of the piping that leads to gas appliances, and the appliances themselves, local contractors said.

As investigators work to determine the cause of Monday's explosion, which killed 20-year-old Morgan State sophomore Joseph Graham and 61-year-old Lonnie Herriott, they're now turning to "what was going on inside the house," BGE CEO Carim V. Khouzami told The Sun.

Leon Phillips, 64, who lived at one of the three homes, told The Sun he smelled "a little bit of gas" Monday morning before he left the house, but didn't think much of it because the smell dissipated as he moved about. He also said there was someone on the property doing maintenance work Sunday.

While the cause of the explosion is still undetermined, Jonathan Koscielski, owner of Eleet Appliance Repair in Baltimore, said one of the more common issues with customer-owned equipment involves the flexible line connecting gas appliances like stoves to the rigid gas line running through the walls of a home.

 

These flexible lines allow appliances to be moved when they're serviced, but over time, they can become damaged, causing gas leaks.

"When you take a paper clip and you keep bending it from one side to the other over time, what happens to the paper clip is it snaps," Koscielski said.

Homeowners should replace these flexible lines whenever they replace a gas appliance, said Dean Landers, president of Landers Appliance, which is based in Rosedale.

Most appliances that run on gas, including water heaters, dryers and furnaces, have safety devices built in to prevent leaks, Landers said. But issues can arise nonetheless, particularly with ineffective burners on gas stoves.

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