Major Screwup by Gas Company - House Explodes

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A demonstration of why I'm happy we use heat pumps in our home occurred yesterday when a house in the next town to ours was destroyed by a gas explosion.
The news reports today said that the gas company (Keyspan) admitted that some kind of goof caused high pressure gas to be fed into to low pressure gas mains, with not unexpected results.
http://tinyurl.com/bdupq
Nuff said,
Jeff
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Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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On Thu, 10 Nov 2005, Jeff Wisnia wrote:

One possible freak accident causing your house being destroyed is slightly reduced. What if the main in the street breaks and the gas follows up your sewer trench into the house. It happened around here. You'd better buy one of those composting toilets.
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I used to work for a gas utility. A standing "sick" joke with employees was that the gas company did not blow up paying customers, because most everytime the gas leaked (some old mains were over 100 years old and made of cast iron) it would follow up a sewer line into a house or building of a non-customer. People who were afraid of having gas installed in their house were not saved by being a non-customer, the gas explosion could still get you. By the way, officially, the word explosion was never used, it was an "incident"!

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It happened here a few years ago too! It sticks in my mind because I had just pulled my oil furnace and switched to natural gas. A gent I worked with at the time thought I was crazy to put gas in my house. "Your house could blow up!" Then he cited where his neighbors house had blown up from a NG leak a few months before. Again the funny side of it all is the house did not have gas supplied to it! The main in the street leaked and the gas followed the water or sewer main into the house. I just countered with, "you are damned if you do and damned it you don't, so you may as well heat with gas!!"
When I think about it, I don't know of any home in the area, that was supplied with gas, ever blow up, except for the occasional intentional leak! We had on a few years ago where the guy beat his wife damn near to death then cracked a gas line in the house and left her for dead. She was able to get out of the house before it blew. The fire department found her laying in the back yard while putting out the fire. Greg
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No form of energy used in a home is without some element of risk. It's a case of trading comfort and convenience against the risk of dying, however slight that risk may be. It is quite possible that there may be more electrical fires than gas fires. Does anyone have the figures on the number of deaths in homes caused by the different forms of energy?
Bob
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Would you include nuclear energy in the list? Do the "deaths in homes" have to occur suddenly to qualify? Timo
Robertm wrote:

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Robertm wrote:

I hear what you say, Bob.
But, since it would be pretty inconvenient for us to live without electricity, I do believe I am lowering our risks by not having an *additional* flammable/flaming fueled system inside my house.
I watched the electrical work being done when we had the place built, and I have the education and experience to know how to avoid creating dangerous electrical conditions when doing repairs or modifications myself.
That's why I wrote what I did in my OP. Nothing is totally risk free, but I'd just as soon live without gas or oil in my house than with it there, since I can keep the place comfortable warm for very little more fuel cost with our new heat pumps, and likely lower overall maintenance expenses than if I had a "furnace" in our home.
Jeff
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Jeffry Wisnia

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Happened in Chicago a few years ago. Took out whole blocks. Seems that instead of having individual regulators on each house, Chicago allowed one regulator per few blocks. THe one regulator went bad and lots of fires resulted as the extra pressure caused the furnaces to shoot out flames.
IT happens. I can point out a few stories about electric heaters burning down houses too.

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working on outside plant, and connected a hi-pressure line to a low-pressure branch serving an older neighborhood. They had to activate their doomsday plan, call out all 3 shifts of fire and police, etc. 2 or 3 houses flat destroyed, several dozen damaged, and they had to shut off gas to most of the north side while they sorted it all out. Some blocks were without gas for a week or more, while they checked every street valve and every meter for damage, and did a free service call and relight for every house. Never saw any court suits about it, so I think the Gas Co. settled the claims as quick as they came in. Good thing it was daytime, and nobody died, and only minor injuries.
aem sends...
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Exactly what happened here in MA.
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Michael Nickolas wrote:

The "high pressure" line (reportedly) was 60 psi, the normal street line (which the high pressure was accidentally connected to) pressure is only 2 psi. When I first heard "high pressure" line accidentally hooked up, I thought they were referring to the Tennessee Gas interstate lines that serve the local utility companies in Eastern Massachusetts towns. Those lines have 600-1500 psi in them!!! TN Gas spends a lot of effort maintaining their infrastructure, probably more than Keyspan (the local gas utility).
Several reports have stated that the regulator should have prevented too much pressure in the house even after the pressure mismatch. Is this true? Can the regulator next to the meter reliably regulate when the supply pressure is that high?
Then again I don't think there were any other leaks inside houses on that street other than the one house that was destroyed, so perhaps everyone else's regulators worked ok.
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rated pressure they "lock out", or just slam shut, stopping the gas flow. It is possible that many regulators do not do this, or the diaphragm in the regulator ruptured from the excessive gas pressure, spewing gas out the vent. Greg
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Greg O wrote:

Last year, I had Keyspan Energy (the same utility that blew up the Lexington house) replace our regulator. It was making a funny noise whenever the hot water heater was running. It took quite a bit of time before I figured out that this strange noise was ocurring when the hot water heater burner was on, and then that it was actually coming from outside because it sure didn't sound like it was. Keyspan took four or five four-hour service appointments (most of which they never showed up) before they finally got it fixed. Along the way they replaced the gas meter for some reason, but of course that didn't fix the problem. The problem was the regulator was sucking air in through the vent, and the diaphram inside was vibrating as air went past, causing the noise which then resonated through the gas pipes. I've wondered if this air introduced into the gas line would cause the appliances to operate incorrectly
There are also excess flow valves, which shut off the gas if too much gas enters the house at once. The NTSB strongly recommends excess flow valves after a tragic accident that blew up a brand new house and killed a family during their first night in their new house. Unfortunately they usually aren't required for new service and cost a mint to install for existing service, and Keyspan said the customer would have to pay for one if one was available at all. I think the new propane grill tanks have excess flow valves built in.
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On Sat, 12 Nov 2005 01:19:05 -0500, Tom Warner

We don't have Keyspan here, but we do have C-Span. It forces Congressional sessions and committee hearings into our houses and must be responsible for almost as many adverse medical incidents as Keyspan.
I think hot air is the pressure source, but I'm not sure what the maximum expected pressure is.
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Tom Warner wrote:

In my area most of the street lines are nominal 60 PSI. They install a regulator where the service line rises into the meter saddle.

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Tom Warner wrote:

the lines regularly looking for stuff like dead crops that indicated below-surface leaks. Every few years the pilots would spot a farmer with a drill trying to install his own "farm tap." 1500 psi lines, those were, as I recall. Luckily the steel was thick enough that the farmers didn't succeed, or we'd have fewer farmers.
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CJT wrote:

Pipe lines carry gas, oil, even coal. you name it. Tony
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Every year at least one house blows up from gas. OTOH, 50,000 people are still killed in automobile accidents every ear and we still drive every day. Oil tanks, leak, people get electrocuted. None of these seem to make much news though.
If gas was available for my house, I'd hook up tomorrow. Thanks, I'll take your share.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

Agreed. But, when a few pet dogs got electrocuted walking on wet pavement here in Boston within the last year, due to buried exposed live conductors, the papers and TV were full of the news about it for days.
And, some pet shops experienced a minor bonaza when they started selling rubber booties for fidos.
Jeff

Your welcome to it. As I just said in another post here, I think I'm reducing (But certainly not eliminating) our risks by sticking with just one fuel (electricity) in our home.
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The house would have to be permeated with gas for an explosion like this. The owners had to be out to lunch or out of town.
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