Chantilly house gas explosion investigation renders few answers
On Dec. 19, 2010, the home that Thuan Nguyen shared with his family in Chantilly exploded. More than a year later, regulators still have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause for the disaster.
In a November 2011 report, the Virginia State Corporation Commission released disturbing new details about the gas explosion, citing Washington Gas for 11 probable violations. However, they also say they're unable to determine the exact cause of the decision because the utility did not take required measurements.
That comes as little comfort to Nguyen, who lost his home, valued at nearly $400,000, and everything inside.
"Everything that we built for my whole life...and it's gone," Nguyen said.
In the report, the SCC says that "the gas service line to the home experienced service corrosion." The line, installed in 1966, had never been upgraded, and photos in the report show holes and severe corrosion in the lines.
The report also says that the corrosion resulted in a major leak across the street from the home on Lees Corner Drive, but they only concluded that the leak might have caused the explosion. Since Washington Gas didn't record required leak detection measurements, though, the commission can't be sure.
"They're not doing their job," Brookfield Civic Association President Larry Leeds said. "I understand business is business, but safety is safety."
The SCC report also says that a customer-owned fuel line that may not have been capped properly could have also caused the explosion. The line in question once led to a gas stove on the second story of the house, but previous owners had put it behind a wall during renovations.
Washington Gas declined to comment because the utility is being sued by the Nguyen's insurance company. Nguyen, in the meantime, has not been contacted by the company.
"I hear no word from Washington Gas," he said.
Regardless of cause or blame, residents of the Chantilly neighborhood say they live in fear and believe it could happen again, while all the while, Washington Gas tells them that its investigation into the explosion continues 14 months later.
"Three-quarters of this development is all gas," Leeds says. "It doesn't take that long to investigate anything."
Meanwhile, the Nguyen's have almost completed their new home - one in which they'll only use electricity and no natural gas.