Answers demanded in Overlea

Hundreds more affected after water, gas main breaks, BGE finds

October 27, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. workers reported finding hundreds more homes in Overlea affected by Saturday's dual water and gas main breaks, while angry residents demanded answers last night about who would pay for the damage and when gas service would resume.

Some of the nearly 200 residents attending an emergency community meeting at Fullerton Elementary School shouted, "Class action lawsuit!" when a representative from the Baltimore Department of Public Works tried to speak.

"We don't know right now who's responsible," said DPW spokesman Kurt L. Kocher.

"Yes you do," interrupted resident Gerald T. Hollingshead, a Cardwell Avenue resident whose gas had not been restored last night. "Don't lie to us."

The water main is part of a city-owned system, while BGE is responsible for the gas main.

Earlier in the day, BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy said the company does not believe the gas main malfunctioned, and Kocher said it was not clear which break happened first or what caused them.

It could be Friday or later before all affected area residents are able to flip on their heat or have hot water, BGE reported.

Nearly 2,000 homes and businesses in the Baltimore County community - 300 more than BGE previously thought - were affected when 6-inch water and gas mains buried together under Belair Road and Cardwell Avenue burst Saturday. The ruptures sent thousands of gallons of water streaming through connected gas lines feeding the area, Foy said - in some cases gushing through furnaces and stoves.

More than 35,000 gallons of water have been removed from the gas mains and lines, and workers were pumping about 1,000 gallons of water last night from one of the lowest points in the affected area near Elmwood Elementary School, said Darlene Buchholz, BGE's manager of gas operations. The school was expected to be closed for a third day today.

As of last night, BGE workers had replaced about 100 water-filled gas meters at area homes, and many of their residents will have to replace gas-fueled appliances, Foy said.

"We've got a problem here," said BGE employee Leonard Nicholson as he spotted a trickle of water coming from a gas meter at a credit union office on Belair Road yesterday.

He had come to the business to restart its furnace, but there would be no heat for at least another day until the damaged gas meter is replaced by another BGE crew.

Nicholson's partner, Harold Kimble, dumped more than a gallon of brown water from the meter.

Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr, who attended last night's meeting, said he expected insurance companies "to do the right thing and pay the claims."

"This is why people buy insurance," he said. "It's for these uncommon and unpredictable occurrences."

But many residents shouted that their insurers had already denied their claims.

Redmer said he is taking the position that damage from the breaks should be covered and that his office would review appeals if an insurance company refuses to pay.

The insurance companies may seek payment from the agency or agencies it determines to be responsible for the damage, Redmer said.

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