Backhoe operator strikes, ruptures a gas main in Perry Hall intersection, alarming residents Gas rushes out with deafening roar

March 19, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A backhoe operator struck a gas main last night in Perry Hall, causing natural gas to rush out with a deafening roar that alarmed nearby residents, Baltimore County fire and BGE officials said.

The incident, which was reported about 11: 10 p.m., occurred at Belair and Joppa roads, where the 2-inch, high-pressure main was struck by a backhoe operator working for a contractor doing repair work at the intersection.

Police closed area streets to traffic to avoid any sparks that could ignite the leaking gas.

Many residents living near the site of the leak were alerted to it by the sound it made, and they placed worried calls to 911 and the local police precinct trying to find out what was going on.

"It's like a jet engine. It's really, really loud," said Barney Banaszkiewicz, owner of the Perry Hall Shell and Mini-Mart near the site of the leak. "It's devastating. It feels like your ears are going to pop."

Baltimore Gas and Electric crews were working early today to repair the leak by first pinching off the gas main, which involves sealing off the main on both ends around the rupture, said Chuck Rayburn, a BGE spokesman. He did not have an estimate early today of when repairs would be completed, but the leak itself had been shut off as was the noise by 12: 30 a.m.

Mr. Rayburn said the leak "really hasn't disrupted gas supply to any of our customers."

Fire and BGE officials were concerned about the gas igniting at the source of the leak. "This being a high-pressure gas main, any leak is going to have a fair amount of gas coming out," Mr. Rayburn said.

However, the danger diminished considerably outside of the immediate area of the leak and the only evacuations reported by fire officials last night were at some of the nearby businesses and at a shopping center at the intersection.

The contractor doing the work at the intersection was not working for BGE and the utility did not know for whom the contractor was working.

"Our crews are focusing on repairing the main. Then we'll go about reconstructing what happened afterward," Mr. Rayburn said.

Pub Date: 3/19/96

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