Washington Gas Fined $750,000 Following Deadly Flower Branch Apartments Explosion


 

On August 10, 2016, an explosion rocked the Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland, killing seven people and injuring dozens more.  Following a lengthy investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the cause of the explosion was likely due to a disconnected vent line and the failure of a mercury service regulator, equipment that controls the pressure of natural gas entering a building.

In 2003, Washington Gas sought a rate increase to launch its mercury service regulator replacement program.  It estimated that more than 66,000 mercury service regulators, each 40-60 years old, would be replaced with spring-loaded regulators (which do not contain mercury) by 2013.  Yet by August 10, 2016, the mercury service regulator at the Flower Branch Apartments was still in service.

On December 18, 2020, the Maryland Public Service Commission fined Washington Gas $750,000 for failing to report on its progress to replace the mercury service regulators.  The decision to fine Washington Gas only for its failure to report its progress—and not its failure to complete the replacement program by 2013—was met with criticism, both from dissenting Public Service Commission members and the public.  As Del. Lorig Charkoudian, whose district includes the neighborhood where the Flower Branch Apartments once stood, remarked, “The finding and the fine don’t really reflect the significance of this horrible outcome.”

Washington Gas is now beginning a new program to replace the mercury service regulators.  It estimates that all mercury regulators will be replaced by 2027—14 years after its original deadline and 11 years after the explosion that claimed seven lives.

Regan Zambri Long PLLC was honored to represent more than 70 victims of the Flower Branch Apartments Explosion, and we remember the seven lives tragically lost.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, please contact or call the law firm of Regan Zambri Long PLLC at (202) 463-3030.