Seeking Reimbursement

Seeking Reimbursement

Mercaptan Leak Costs County Dollars

Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) plans to ask Washington Gas to reimburse taxpayers for the Labor Day weekend mercaptan leak.

Over Labor Day weekend, Loudoun County Fire and Rescue members responded to 267 gas-related incidents in North Sterling, South Cascades, Ashburn and Leesburg. Residents complained of strong gas smells through their homes and reported possible gas leaks.

Washington Gas spokesperson Jan Davis said the strong smells did not come from gas leaks, but an equipment malfunction at a Washington Gas conditioning facility in Virginia. Residents smelled mercaptan, a nontoxic chemical added to natural gas to make it easier to detect in case of a leak.

While upgrading a Washington Gas system in Dranesville, workers accidentally added too much mercaptan to the gas, producing a strong smell.

"Only a small amount of mercaptan is needed to detect gas," Davis said. "They added too much."

ON TUESDAY, Sept. 16, Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management Department Chief Joseph E. Pozzo and Delgaudio presented Washington Gas representatives with a list of expenses, at a finance and government services committee meeting. The mercaptan leak cost the county $6,848.

"It was totally a Washington Gas phenomenon," Delgaudio said. "Nothing to do with the county."

The chief broke down the expenses for county and Washington Gas representatives.

Over the course of two days, Fire and Rescue workers and volunteers from as far west as Nearsville, worked around the clock, making home visits and ensuring there were no gas leaks at the impacted homes. During that time, the county supplied workers with food, which cost $950.

"You have to have food for your volunteers," Delgaudio said, "when there are no breaks and people are working overtime."

Other expenses included $2,632 in fuel and $250 in supplies, like batteries.

In addition, due to the hundreds of calls in a short amount of time, Fire and Rescue workers were called on to work overtime, costing the county $3,014.

"We understand that this was an accident," Delgaudio said. "Let's not make the taxpayers have to pay for their accident."

On a positive note, Delgaudio said the crisis proved Loudoun County is prepared for an emergency.

"It is necessary to make sure everybody is getting what they need," he said.