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Faulty Joint, Sewer Line Were Behind Fatal NYC Explosion That Killed Eight People

Oil lickign from pipe
An ill-crafted joint in a plastic Con Edison gas line and an eight-year-old break in an old city sewer line have been pinpointed as the likely causes behind a blast that killed eight people in New York City last year, federal investigators recently announced.

According to a June 9 report from the Associated Press, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board found the weak plastic pipe joint had been exposed when groundwater washed away the soil that supported it, flowing into a gaping hole in the brick sewer line.

Both Con Edison and the city disputed the NTSB’s findings, with each party claiming the other was fully responsible for the March 12, 2014 blast. The explosion also injured 50 people, destroyed more than 100 homes and halted train travel by sending debris flying onto the Metro-North Railroad tracks running above the street.

“Not all of the participants involved in this investigation reached the same conclusion concerning the sequence of infrastructure failures,” a Con Ed spokesperson said, blaming the breach on the city entirely. Sewer lines should ideally be replaced once every 40 years in order to avoid major cracks and holes like the one that caused the New York City explosion.

Likewise, city officials pointed to the bad Con Ed joint as the real cause of the blast, as it allowed natural gas to escape from the plastic gas line.

“The full investigation reveals that a properly fused fusion joint would not have failed,” City spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said, explaining that blaming the city’s sewer line “appears unsupported by the facts.”

In addition to these findings, the NTSB’s investigation also revealed that several people had reported smelling gas the day before the explosion, but none called it in to the local fire department or Con Ed.

On the day of the explosion, one individual reported a gas odor to Con Ed — the dispatcher saying “Hold up. No, sorry. Hold up one second. Hold on. I will call you back. I will call you right back,” but did not follow up.

The NTSB also found that the fire department could have feasibly reached the scene of the blast 15 minutes before it took place to begin an evacuation of the area, though investigators stressed it was unclear if doing so would have saved any lives, the Associated Press reported.

As a result of its investigation, the NTSB has made recommendations to both Con Ed and New York City to establish stronger safety procedures that will prevent future events like this from taking place.