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Thousands of gas leaks discovered in District

Thursday - 1/16/2014, 8:43am  ET

WASHINGTON - A street-by-street survey of D.C.'s gas pipes found 5,893 natural gas leaks, The Washington Post reports.

The study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology said that in 12 locations, gas collected under manholes so much that it could have exploded. The researcher did their testing last January and February.

When the researchers from Duke, Stanford and Boston universities tested the pipes four months later, eight of those locations were still at potentially explosive levels.

Some of the thousands of gas leaks from D.C.'s aging pipes did have gas levels that were many times what's normally in the environment, the Post reports. The researchers believe the leaks are the result of breaks in the city's cast iron gas mains.

While the leaks are not harmful to health, they do contribute to climate change and can cost consumers money.

Washington Gas declined to be interviewed by WTOP.

Eric Grant, vice president of corporate relations for Washington Gas, issued the following statement:

Washington Gas has yet to review the study.

At Washington Gas, safety is the highest priority and the company lives by that obligation. We maintain rigorous inspection programs, operating procedures and record-keeping protocols. Washington Gas practices exceed the leak detection and repair procedures that are required by code, enforced by federal agencies and overseen by each state's public service commission. The company continually takes appropriate actions to maintain the safety of its gas distribution system in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia.

In accordance with the company's standard protocol, Washington Gas immediately responds to every report of natural gas odor and repairs leaks 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With over 13,000 miles of distribution mains and more than 940,000 service lines in our system, it is not realistic to state that there are no leaks.

Throughout the country, all utilities are challenged with the timely replacement of aging infrastructure. Washington Gas continually replaces old infrastructure, as required. Maryland has recently joined Virginia and over 34 other states in recognizing this challenge by creating a law which allows for the accelerated replacement of aging infrastructure.

Grant's statement encourages people who smell natural gas to leave the area and call 911 or the Washington Gas at its emergency leak line at 703-750-1400 or 1- 800-752-7520.

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