What's that smell? Hundreds of gas leaks reported in DC

You may remember back in December, FOX 5 received a number of reports from viewers concerned about the smell of natural gas in parts of DC and Montgomery County. At the time, no major issues were discovered.

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Since then, over 50 people who are part of environmental and religious organizations in DC formed Beyond Gas DC. They each got a gas detector to investigate where that rotten egg smell was coming from.

The group found nearly 400 gas leaks all around the nation’s capital. When Fox 5 contacted the DC Office of Unified Communications, they said since January 2022 – they have received over 400 calls for the smell of natural gas.

We spoke with two women who took part in the study and say they have been dealing with this their entire lives. Now, they suffer from headaches, dizziness, and even asthma.

"My concern, being a senior citizen, the health issue is a big concern that gas is unhealthy, leaks are unhealthy. This is an older community everyone who lives here has gas in their homes," said Rosa Lee, Volunteer Researcher, Beyond Gas DC Project.

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"Sometimes you can walk in the house, you check and you smell gas, you check and you make sure all the gas if off, but you still smell gas so you know leakage is going on so we know as we burn gas from the stoves that toxic admission is actually polluting the air that we are breathing on the inside," said Michelle Hall, Volunteer Researcher, Beyond Gas DC.

The coalition is made up of over 50 volunteer researchers with the Sierra Club as well as Washington Interfaith Network, Friends Meeting of Washington, and many other faith-based organizations.

Beyond Gas DC teamed up one year ago and spent 25 hours testing leaks at gas access caps and other utility manholes at 21 locations across all eight wards.

"We’ve been concerned both about the contribution of fossil fuels to our climate and also to the health of DC residents for a number of years," said Barbara Briggs, Coordinator, Beyond Gas DC.

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Out of the 389 gas leaks discovered, 14 were at hazardous levels that could’ve caused an explosion. While gas leaks cause public safety and health threats, Beyond Gas DC says there are also climate threats and that’s why they want the city to move away from using gas.

"Washington Gas wants to charge DC residents $5 billion to replace its pipes. The total cost of this according to the DC government would be $5 billion. DC has committed to be carbon neutral and not burn fossil fuels by 2050 so to spend almost $5 billion on fossil fuel infrastructure when we want to transition off of fossil fuels in the next 28 years makes no sense," said Mark Rodeffer, Sierra Club.

Washington Gas says they are focused on a pathway forward that modernizes their operations and infrastructure to address gas leaks sending Fox 5 DC this statement:

"Our strategies and plans filed with the DC public service commission will help DC meet its climate goals in a manner that is affordable, reliable, safe, and sustainable."


As always, Washington Gas encourages anyone who suspects they smell a natural gas odor to immediately call 844-WASHGAS (844-927-4427) and/or 911.