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Settlement reached in Chantilly gas leak explosion

Home leveled in 2010

Washington Gas has to pay Virginia $154,800 under a settlement order from the State Corporation Commission stemming from an investigation into a December 2010 explosion that destroyed a home in Chantilly.

While not admitting or denying liability, the company is on the hook for another $219,700 if it doesn't replace all the copper service lines in the Brookfield community by the end of November, among other requirements.

The company was charged with nine violations of the SCC's gas pipeline safety standards in the order. Those include not recording test readings of natural gas after the incident occurred, failing to document leakage test readings and the locations of gas discovered as part of the investigation, failing to perform a complete leak survey of the service line to the address, and failing to identify and record a "service violation" of the line under the home's foundation during a June 1, 2009, leak survey.

Nobody was killed in the accident, but the property loss from the home at 4303 Lees Corner Road was estimated to be nearly $400,000, according to the Fairfax County fire marshal's incident report. The cause was most likely a natural gas leak, according to the report.

The incident is not the company's first run-in with gas-leak issues. An internal memo from 2005 indicates that a crew leader said they were having difficulty stopping leaks when pipelines were at a certain pressure, but workers were making repairs on lower-pressure systems.

"Our plan is to go back to the grade 2 leaks we're holding in Kettering [Prince George's County] and re-evaluate to determine if the pressure reduction helped," wrote Thomas Henschen. "We are NOT planning on an overall leak survey since that could result in finding new leaks."

The company has until Nov. 30 to replace all the copper service lines in the immediate neighborhood, and Washington Gas must also test and collect information on the copper service lines as they are replaced and use this information to evaluate the remaining copper service lines in its Virginia service territory.

In addition to removing and testing the copper service lines, the State Corporation Commission has ordered Washington Gas to revise its procedures used for responding to an emergency. The company also has to conduct refresher training for all field employees and contractor personnel on identifying and reporting "abnormal operating conditions" to the company by the end of July.

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