Flower Branch apt. tenants urge action to prevent another fatal gas explosion

The view from a nearby parking lot on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, shows the damage from an explosion and fire at the Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

Tenants of a Silver Spring, Maryland, apartment complex where an August 2016 gas explosion killed seven contend that they have since smelled gas, and they’re calling for multifaceted action to prevent another tragedy.

A Maryland state delegate and Montgomery County officials joined the tenants during a news conference Wednesday.

Last month, NTSB officials announced the probable cause of the blast, which also injured dozens: “the failure of an indoor mercury service regulator, with an unconnected vent line, that allowed natural gas into the meter room, where it accumulated, and ignited from an unknown ignition source.”

The NTSB also detailed 13 recommendations to Washington Gas and other entities moving forward.

“We ask that their recommendations are taken seriously,” said Ana Martinez, an organizer with CASA de Maryland.

A natural gas smell had been reported to apartment management in the months before the explosion. Maintenance staff, according to the NTSB, either didn’t detect the smell or attributed it to paint.

“Disregard of tenants’ concerns was a fatal act of negligence,” said Martinez.

But on Wednesday, residents said the gas smells have persisted. One resident detailed how he had smelled it just a few months ago, and that a complaint to the complex’s manager, Kay Management, was disregarded.

“We are here because we want to make sure that those people stop ignoring us,” he said.

Also at Wednesday’s news conference was County Executive Marc Elrich, who said situations like this are what leads to more regulation on an industry that wants less.

“When you understand what our intent is and you still can’t follow our intent, it’s them that are inviting the additional regulations,” he said. “It’s their failure to do what we think are common-sense, practical, sensible behaviors that forces us to figure out new ways to set requirements on them.”

At-large Council member Will Jawando, who grew up in the area, singled out Washington Gas and Kay Management in particular: “We’re going to be on you like we haven’t been on you in the past,” he said.

“… We are in the wealthiest county in the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country on the face of the globe,” he said. “This is unacceptable, and we’re going to hold them accountable, and we’re going to make sure that these children (and) their families are safe.”

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to WTOP.com when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

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