Sewer line tests in Idlewylde result in smoky basements, shaken residents

Many hadn't seen notice

fumes nontoxic, officials say

April 17, 2003|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's sewer line tests in Idlewylde yesterday alarmed some residents, who discovered smoke billowing into their basements.

The county's Department of Public Works said it notified residents before the testing, but homeowners apparently didn't see or ignored the notices placed on their door handles. Work crews blow smoke into the lines to detect leaks.

The result was panic, as two residents said they discovered the thick smoke but didn't know its cause.

Annie Cronin, who lives in the 1000 block of Regester Ave., called 911 after she went downstairs to do laundry and found smoke. "It was pouring in," Cronin said.

Cronin said she never got a notice, so she didn't know what was happening. "Had I at least had a heads-up I probably would not have been so afraid," she said.

Michael Fevang of the 6500 block of Beechwood Road said his young son and nephew were playing video games in the basement when smoke poured in. They ran upstairs to tell Fevang.

Fevang said his wife saw the county's notice, but he did not. He evacuated the house until police, firefighters and county workers came and explained what was happening and that the smoke was not dangerous.

"This might be harmless and nontoxic. But when you were in the basement, you could taste it, almost like gritty dirt," Fevang said.

While the county told the two residents that the presence of smoke indicated defective plumbing or drainage, both said they doubted it.

The public works notice to residents indicated the onset of smoke testing and said it was harmless, said David Fidler, public works spokesman.

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