The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

An Exploding House Thanks to Gas Company Inattention

Apr 18, 2005

On March 28, a house exploded in District Heights, a mostly black working class suburb on the Maryland side of Washington D.C. Fortunately, the family living there was not home when their house blew up.

People in the neighborhood had been smelling gas for over a year. In fact, since mid-February, the Washington Gas Company had received 260 calls from people who smelled gas in this District Heights neighborhood, compared to the 85 which is usual for a neighborhood of this size.

Moreover, it is a problem for several neighborhoods in the same area, not just District Heights but also Clinton, Surrattsville and Lanham, to name a few. Some people in Clinton, for example, have been smelling gas for three years! These people live in fear. They turn their heat off at night, and they have stopped having backyard barbecues. People in these neighborhoods have repeatedly called Washington Gas.

In fact, the service line to the house that blew up had been repaired the day before the explosion! So what exactly is going on?

These gas leaks are occurring in a 100-square mile area. The mechanical couplings that link service lines were installed there from the 1950s through the 1970s, which means they are 30 to 50 years old. The rubber seals are deteriorating not surprisingly. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to know that rubber dry rots and falls apart with age!

People should not have to live like this in fear. The stench of gas means they cannot even sell their homes, because no one wants to buy the houses.

"It’s an older community. It’s not affluent," said Yvonne Mack, who lives in Clinton. If gas were leaking out of couplings in a wealthy Washington neighborhood, you can bet Washington Gas would not wait for a million dollar home to explode.

Poor neighborhoods have the possibility to explode from gas leaks. It would be better if they exploded with people’s rage at an unacceptable situation.