The gas leak which likely caused the massive explosion in Harlem last month which killed eight and injured at least sixty people may highlight a city-wide problem for Con-Ed. Old, outdated, and unsafe gas pipelines crisscross the city’s underground and could cause more explosions in New York City at any time.
While gas leak explosions in New York aren’t common, they are more so than you might expect. In 2007 69-year old Junta Oza was burned alive in her Queens residence after an 80-year old cast iron gas main buried in the ground outside failed. In January of this year, three people were injured in an explosion on Staten Island caused by a gas leak. Just last month, a building on the Nyack College campus exploded because of leaking natural gas.
The Center for an Urban Future recently compiled a report using Con-Ed’s own data and the results were shocking. The gas mains that run under city streets are, on average, 53 years old. Some are so old that nobody knows exactly how long they’ve been buried. Even worse, the majority of those lines are made of cast iron or unprotected steel-the two types of line most likely to experience leaks and catastrophic failure. Data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration shows that Con-Ed suffered 83 gas leaks for every 100 miles of main line in 2012.
These conditions are ripe for natural gas explosions in New York. Such explosions can cause irreparable damage to personal property but they can also cause drastic and life altering injuries including burns, loss of limbs, brain injury, and even death.
If an investigation uncovers that the explosion in question was caused by negligence (such as unsafe installation or poor maintenance of gas lines), injured individuals or their surviving family members can sue for their losses including medical or funeral expenses, physical therapy, lost wages, and pain and suffering.