Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Experts Say Explosion Highlights Need to Maintain, Fix Gas Pipes

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Experts Say Explosion Highlights Need to Maintain, Fix Gas Pipes

Article excerpt

Aside from the destruction of two houses and far-flung debris, the Tuesday morning explosion in South Paterson left a big unanswered question: What went wrong?

The morning blast occurred nearly 30 minutes after a homeowner called 911 to report a strong odor of gas, which prompted emergency responders to immediately evacuate multiple houses on Goshen Street.

By Tuesday afternoon, PSE&G said it was working with Paterson officials to determine the cause of the explosion, which did extensive damage to surrounding buildings, but with few serious injuries and no fatalities.

Industry experts say the explosion could have easily led to multiple deaths and is a far too common occurrence nationwide as companies and regulators are slow to update aging infrastructures.

"They're happening at a much higher rate," said Mark McDonald, owner of Boston-based NatGas Consulting, which investigates natural gas explosions throughout the country. "Prevention should be the key priority, and in this industry it's not," he said.

Although he said incidents should be looked at "case by case," McDonald said there is a compilation of factors that could contribute to explosions like the one in Paterson, including aging infrastructure or premature piping corrosion and failure.

McDonald cited a gas explosion in August in a Silver Spring, Md., apartment building that killed seven people, including two children, and injured more than 40.

"Unfortunately we have very aging infrastructures all over the country, especially in urban areas," McDonald said, noting that it could take more than a decade to replace every aging gas line in the country.

PSE&G said Tuesday that it had no previous reports of gas leaks in the area of 16 and 18 Goshen St., where the explosion occurred.

The utility said it had inspected both the 2-inch plastic gas pipe in the street, which was installed in 1986, and the plastic service lines to the homes routinely in the past two years. …

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