Montgomery County Council Approves Mercury Services Regulators Bill

Homeowners in Montgomery County will need to notify tenants of regulators of mercury services in their homes, under legislation the county council unanimously approved on Tuesday.

Homeowners will also need to notify local gas companies to eventually replace these devices.

Regulators control and regulate the flow of natural gas. If not installed properly, regulators can build up gas and ignite.

The legislation is in part a reaction to an explosion and fire in December 2016 at Flower Branch apartments in Silver Spring, which killed seven people. The regulator was not connected to a ventilation line, so natural gas accumulated and ignited.

County Council Chairman Tom Hucker proposed the bill in December.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Hucker said he still had a candle in his office from a memorial service for the victims of that event. More than 100 people were displaced by the explosion.

“Today I am happy that we are able to do what it takes for them and the survivors of the tragedy to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again,” Hucker said. . .

After an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and a review by the State Civil Service Commission, the PSC fined WGL – the company that oversees Washington Gas, the regulator’s owner – in a $ 750,000 fine. order issued in December.

The NTSB determined that the regulator was the cause of the explosion.

The ordinance also requires WGL to examine all of its properties in Maryland and the region to determine which ones contain mercury service regulators. Within three years of the order, the utility is required to survey each property that may have one and must replace them within five years of the end of this survey.

Hucker’s Bill adds to these requirements by involving homeowners in the process.

He first asked them to determine if there were any mercury service regulators on their property. But the council’s planning, housing and economic development committee said this at a previous meeting, saying WGL, not the owner, should check to make sure the mercury service regulators are the devices identified. .

The bill was amended, however, so that owners still make a good faith effort to take pictures of any devices they believe could be regulators. The change was made because WGL has the expertise to identify such devices, unlike the owners.

June 21st, the PHED committee voted 3-0 to amend the bill to apply to multi-family properties built before January 1, 1968. Previously, the legislation applied to buildings before 1975.

Brian Smith, head of government relations and public policy at WGL, said the utility had inspected properties in the area and found that most of the buildings with regulators were from before 1968.

The PHED committee also amended the bill to exclude co-owners from those with similar properties.

Since this is fast-track legislation, the bill goes into effect as soon as the county executive, Marc Elrich, signs it.

Steve Bohnel can be contacted at [email protected]

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