New York City authorities and Con Edison officials are squaring off over recent findings that blame a deadly March 2014 Harlem gas explosion on both the City and the utility company after a gas pipeline failed.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is charged with analyzing pipeline disasters, said Tuesday that a poorly welded joint in the Con Edison pipeline was further weakened by erosion from an eight-year-old brick sewer pipe maintained by the City.
After a probe that continued for more than a year, NTSB investigators concluded that erosion caused by a hole in the City’s sewer pipe led to an erosion of the soil that supported the Con Edison pipeline. The situation caused the pipe to sag and eventually created a breach through which the natural gas escaped and accumulated in the area at 1144 and 1146 Park Avenue.
The massive blast leveled two five-story apartment buildings, each with a commercial floor level, killing eight people and injuring 50 others. More than 100 families were left displaced or homeless and Metro-North commuter train travel was disrupted after the Harlem gas explosion threw debris onto the train tracks above the street.
The NTSB’s findings will certainly have an impact on the litigation emerging from the incident. Knowing this, both the City and Con Edison officials have disputed the NTSB’s conclusions.
According to NBC New York, Con Edison said the City’s broken sewer main was entirely to blame and added that “Not all of the participants involved in this investigation reached the same conclusion concerning the sequence of infrastructure failures.”
New York City spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said Con Edison’s assertions are “unsupported by the facts” and noted that the broken sewer line was 43 feet from Con Edison’s bad pipe.
“The full investigation reveals that a properly fused fusion joint would not have failed,” she said.
According to the NTSB’s report, a Con Edison worker who modified the pipe in 2011 so that a new building could receive gas from the main failed to properly clean the pipes when welding them with melted plastic. The foreign debris created a vulnerable seal.
The NTSB also found fault with the City’s response to reports of gas odors called in on the day of the explosion. According to NBC News, a dispatcher notified the fire department, but when the fire department called back seeking an address for the complaint, the dispatcher said “Hold up. No, sorry. Hold up one second. Hold on. I will call you back. I will call you right back,” but never followed up.
Source: NBC News New York