Harlem gas leak explosion

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Terry, Mar 14, 2014.

  1. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Bothell, Washington
    Pipes from the 1800's in many parts of New York. Infrastructure that has been on the verge of replacement for years. Replacing old pipes in streets, means shutting down the transportation. Sometimes, those things just need to happen. I've often wondered about all those pipes in the ground, old, old pipes. How long do they last? And how do you even get to them?



    Eight people have been found dead in the smoldering rubble of two upper Manhattan buildings leveled by a gas explosion that injured more than 70 others, and rescuers are still sifting through the ruins as they search for three who remain missing.


  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    New England
    Infrastructure investment is a long-term endeavor, and corporate America is more concerned with short-term results. As a result, without a governing agency with some balls to enforce it, lots of stuff is wearing out, and only being patched, not upgraded as it should be. We need to make our concerns known to the people that make the rules, and first, make sure those already on the books are enforced, and when necessary, get them updated, or this won't be a rarity!

    A leaking water main may be an inconvenience (an ancient 24" line broke this week in my small city taking out a significant section of roadway), but a major inconvenience. A gas main leak can be catastrophic. A power line failure can be life threatening, especially in the winter. A bridge failure can be both a major economic hit, but a major inconvenience, and deadly, if you happen to be on it at the time!

    Nobody wants to spend the money, and diverts the income from ongoing operations to trying to maintain, and reward the shareholders. Sometimes, you have to get your priorities straight, and those for the overall well-being of the area and country do not always align with enriching the stockholders.
  3. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    New York, NY
    UPDATE: While the comments below are all basically still valid, it turns out that I may be completely-wrong in this case. As part of its investigation, ConEd drilled some 50 holes in the area around the building yesterday and found significant ground saturation of gas, which is an indicator of a leaking main. Might still be in the customer's facilities, but less likely now. The plaintiffs' lawyers got lucky...

    Coned spends a lot of money on its infrastructure. Unlike the City, which would rather do some dumb highly visible thing. That's why we get more water main leaks than gas line explosions. :)

    ConEd inspected that main recently, and judged that it was good for at least another 3 years (whereas many mains of that age are not found to be good and are replaced promptly). Coincidentally, there was a routine visit on that street last week by a ConEd sniffer truck, which sniffed nothing. It's gonna be the commercial kitchen in the basement of the church, or the 140 feet of new gas line installed by a licensed plumber in the building last summer, not the gas main. Every one is praying that it is the main, of course, so they have a deep pocket to sue. This main was old but in good shape generally. Maybe someone should have called the night before when they smelled gas initially. Reports were that some people slept with their windows open because of the gas smell. Amazing; I would have been on the phone to ConEd, 311 or 911.

    For a while, the media was complaining that it took ConEd about 15 minutes to arrive to the gas leak report after being dispatched. They say their usual response is within 30 minutes. It seems to me that if they had arrived sooner, we probably would have had a bunch of dead ConEd workers on the scene as well as dead residents. Bottom line, I think, is that by the time somebody finally decided to call, it was too late. Sad. So very sad.

    PS One reason I suspect the commercial kitchen is that, having owned restaurants, I know that commercial gas ranges, friers, char-grills, etc., will happily let you blow the place up if you don't handle them properly. They are set up to use a lot more gas than home appliances, and have no fail-safes. More than once, I had crews blow out the pilot lights on the range, or turn off the charbroiler at the main and then turn it back on, extinguishing the pilot, or, worse, have one guy turn the broiler off on the collective shutoff without closing the individual valves, then have another guy turn it back on at the collective shutoff without realizing valves were open. And the equipment doesn't care while the gas hisses on. A potent potion of screaming, training, threats of firing, warnings of bodily harm, threats of bodily harm, actual firings and more training later, we realized that we had to administer this potion regularly or risk that one of our folks was going to blow our place up. It's why very good general managers make a trip down the equipment line every night without fail on the way home to make sure all pilots are on and no valves are open. They find mistakes regularly. So...maybe it's my prejudice, but when I hear "commercial kitchen in the basement", being operated by church members, I have to think that that's Suspect Number One.

    On Terry's point, you should see what someplace like Third Avenue looks like when the utility markings are made in a spot before digging. It's a kaleidoscope of colors of paint; looks like graffiti. And when the street is opened, it's fascinating to see everything that's down there are has to be worked around. It's quite something.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; have one guy turn the broiler off on the collective shutoff without closing the individual valves, then have another guy turn it back on at the collective shutoff

    WHY are "cooks" turning "main gas valves" on and off in the first place. IF that is happening them you need "tamper resistant" valves or valves without handles so they cannot do it. Those valves are for 'service" purposes only, NOT for appliance on/off use. unless you are referring to incompetent plumbers who do not know how to turn off the individual burners first. It would be a case of a "little knowledge being a dangerous thing".
  5. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Houston, TX
    With the use of smart meters now a days, They could have leak detection to alert of a gas leak.

    Some people need to take a test, before allowed to use a gas appliance.

    Our Gas company sends us Scratch and Sniffs.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
  6. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    New York, NY
    HJ: One of the best charbroilers,, the MagiKitch'n, has 6-12 individually-valved heating tubes (so you can set up zones on the broiler), and one red knob at the end which controls all the gas to the unit (which is what I was talking about as a "main" one), including the gas to the pilot. The unit is super-powerful, and flows a prodigious amount of gas through it. If you turn off that red knob, you turn off the pilot. Turn it back on without lighting the pilot, then "hisssss....". Use the red knob to turn off the unit, instead of turning off all the tubes, then turn the red knob back on, "Hisss"-cubed. And a lot of commercial kitchen stuff is designed like that.


    Running a restaurant profitably requires procedures and training, so it's nothing new to realize you need to constantly pound this particular safety issue. Same thing with the use of bleach in the facility. I have so many close-call stories, even with demanding training and strict procedures.

    The danger always comes when you put this kind of equipment in the hands of folks who think it's as safe as a home unit.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
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