It’s not entirely out of the question. Someone could be standing on the premises of another person’s home, and the next minute they could be dead of a natural gas blast.
An interesting article in the Philadelphia Inquirer this month points out the dangers of aging pipes. In one instance earlier this year, a man was standing outside his home in Tacony as a utility worker went next door to try to fix a natural gas leak. The air smelled of the gas, and the man says he could see bubbles rising through cracks in the street.
At that point, there was a massive explosion, and the gas worker was killed. Several others were severe injured. As it turns out, the leak was in a cast-iron pipeline that was 68 years old.
The Inquirer reports that the explosion knocked out windows in a two-block radius and destroyed a nearby office. Natural gas explosions can be massive, which makes aging pipes all the more worrisome.
Soon after the blast in Tacony, another explosion in Allentown killed five people. That pipeline was over 80 years old. Some in the area are more than 100 years old, with the oldest dating from the 1800s. One company in Philadelphia has more than 3,000 miles of cast iron pipelines in the city, over half of the gas mains. That’s apparently the highest percentage in the country.
There is apparently no rush to replace them. There are no laws in place regarding replacing aging pipelines, and crews are slow to do so. It would apparently cost about $1.6 billion to replace all the pipes, which is nearly impossible.
In the meantime, however, the decaying cast iron pipes pose a real danger of further leaks. What should be done?