Water fees from ratepayers will pay for a settlement between the city of Columbus and an Upper Arlington couple whose home was damaged in a 2015 explosion in their Sunningdale Way neighborhood.

Water fees from ratepayers will pay for a settlement between the city of Columbus and an Upper Arlington couple whose home was damaged in a 2015 explosion in their Sunningdale Way neighborhood.

Columbus City Council approved the settlement Nov. 7 that calls for the city to pay $37,500 to David and Beatrice Hamilton, of 3430 Sunningdale Way,

It's the first in what could be dozens of payments to Upper Arlington residents whose properties were damaged or destroyed after a gas leak and explosion in March 2015.

The Hamiltons filed a claim with Columbus to pay for damages stemming from the explosion but did not file a lawsuit. Other Upper Arlington property owners have filed lawsuits, though, in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. The city is named in cases that include 33 individual plaintiffs.

"You're going to be looking at some sizable things coming your way in the future, I believe," City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer told Columbus City Council members Nov. 7. "This is a good settlement for us."

Though the explosion occurred in Upper Arlington, the city of Columbus is involved because it maintains the suburb's water lines.

The Hamiltons' home was one of those damaged when the house next door at 3418 Sunningdale exploded March 21, 2015.

The owners of that home, Hidefumi and Mariko Ishida, were not home when gas began to leach through the foundation of their house, building to an explosion that was heard and felt miles away.

Nobody was seriously injured in the blast, but more than two dozen houses were destroyed or damaged.

Last year, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio issued a report that said Columbia Gas should be fined $400,000 because of the explosion. But it also said the Columbus Division of Water "contributed" to the explosion.

Upper Arlington has its own water system, with Columbus under contract to maintain it, Pfeiffer said.

The water division's files hold a "tap card" created in 1990 that described an abandoned gas line as an active water line. The day before the explosion, a city water worker had opened the old gas line in the belief that it was a water line that ran to the Ishida house.

When the error became apparent, the employee did not fully close the gas line, allowing the gas to go into the home.

A mail carrier smelled natural gas March 21 and alerted a neighbor, who called Columbia Gas. A Columbia Gas worker shut off the gas, but the worker didn't know about the abandoned line that continued to pump gas into the Ishidas' home. When the house exploded, 28 homes were damaged; eight were deemed uninhabitable.

In January, the PUCO agreed to cut the Columbia Gas fine in half -- to $200,000 -- in exchange for making safety improvements. If the company does not honor that agreement, it must pay the entire fine, said Matt Schilling, a PUCO spokesman.

Columbia Gas and the city are both named in lawsuits filed by the Ishidas and nearby property owners.

rrouan@dispatch.com

@RickRouan