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What Can We Learn From the Horrific Harlem Blast?

What Can We Learn From the Horrific Harlem Blast?

This post was written by Lorraine Chow and originally appeared on NationSwell

Bad pipes have big problems. Old pipes are less efficient and use more energy. Leaks from eroded pipes can also contaminate the environment and impact air quality. And in the most devastating of cases, problematic pipes can take down entire apartment buildings, cause serious injuries and even claim lives, as the horrific East Harlem natural gas blast (presumably caused by leaky pipes) demonstrated last week.

The problem with pipes is their finite lifespan. And while authorities are still trying to figure out the exact cause of the Harlem blast, it has brought much-needed attention to New York City’s aging gas and water mains, some of which are more than 100 years old.

Simply put, we need to replace, repair or upgrade our cities’ aging pipelines. It may sound like a dramatic fix, but when it’s a life or death situation, this action is critical. When there’s a gas leak, fumes escape and a room can become a ticking time bomb, ignited by anything — from a lit cigarette to a flickering light bulb.

The tragedy in Harlem is proof that we need to fix leaks before it’s too late, especially in older cities like New York, Boston or Philadelphia. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a proponent of infrastructure repair, has said that the federal government needs to provide more aid to cities for this problem.

But there are additional reasons why the whole country should be investing in pipeline upgrades. As Grist pointed out in a recent report, doing so would not only prevent future disasters, but the environment and the economy would be better off as a result, as well. According to the report, natural gas leaks cause methane, a potent gas that’s “between 20 and 85 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as [carbon dioxide]“ to be released into the atmosphere, driving climate change.

As for the economy, repairing the nation’s existing pipeline infrastructure — an estimated $18 billion investment — would create many more long-term jobs than the (controversial) Keystone XL pipeline, according to a study released by the Economics for Equity and Environment and the Labor Network for Sustainability (via HuffPo). That’s 300,000 total jobs across all sectors or nearly five times more jobs, and more long-term jobs than the KXL, the report states.

While it may not be easy or glamorous, it sounds like repairing the country’s pipelines shouldn’t be such a pipe dream.

Source: Grist

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42 comments

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8:27PM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

California has it's problems also look at the San Bruno blast. We have infrastructure repair needs all over this country and plenty of folks who need and want the work. Problem is repairs don't make big money just cost money so these accidents are not going away. It's about the need of profit to pay bloated salaries to CEO's and shareholders and the reality of the greed of business. The people making the big bucks don't have to live in the older area's with old infrastructure. They just build a new home.

3:58AM PDT on Mar 20, 2014

Makes sense.

6:48PM PDT on Mar 19, 2014

Of course, the petition up there doesn't work. At any rate, when will it sink in to people that gas is fine to use in power plants but should never be piped into homes let alone even apartment buildings. That's asking for trouble. Gas is simply too dangerous. In fact, when gas gets turned off for some reason while nobody is at home, all the pilot lights go out. When the gas gets turned back on, the gas for the pilot light seeps out and eventually any spark will blow the place up not to mention that the leaking gas endangers pets. It should be illegal to have gas and pilot lights in private homes.

5:28PM PDT on Mar 19, 2014

Very sad indeed. Some of the ones who died had moved over there looking for better jobs, and some of them did find a job but at what price! I hope the bereaved left behind can find some peace!

2:14PM PDT on Mar 19, 2014

America's infrastructure is in need of upgrade. There was a documentary in 2009 about our nation's aging and deteriorating infrastructure. We should be spending money on that and by that create jobs rather than continue our never ending wars that only enrich the military industrial complex and contractors.

My deepest condolences to the families.

1:33PM PDT on Mar 19, 2014

On February 9, 2011 a gas explosion leveled 2 homes and the fire demolished a whole block of homes here in Allentown, Pa. Five people died, one of them was a baby. 50+ homes were damaged. The gas main was 90 years old--cast iron. UGI made payments to the families, but that doesn't bring back the dead or help people forget the horror of that night. Improvements are slow in happening. Our infrastructure is just too old. We need to make replacing aged infrastructure a higher priority than it is. Whenever I see UGI digging in the area I get worried, because they never tell you what they're doing. Look how many gas workers are caught in explosions, and no one knew what they were doing there. It's not a lot, but it's still too many. And you don't need to have natural gas in your building for it to explode. The gas can travel along water lines. So sad for the families of these disasters.

11:51AM PDT on Mar 19, 2014

There have been several explosions this winter in my area...aging pipes that need fixing/updating.

11:37AM PDT on Mar 19, 2014

Go off the grids. They gonna blow.:) Move to the country build you a home, buy a generator, an some solar platers livin off the sun..add a wind turbine and earth energy grid, gravity feed water turbine too, and laugh at the sucker payin the bills..grow it eat it, sew it wear it..la la..:)
Mother of all depressions about to fall upon us...by design of course..gotta move this NWO along now..:) Buy gold..again :)
Bury it. |See earth ships..you tube..coool. Buy one or build one..be free..cheap too.

11:18AM PDT on Mar 19, 2014

This is true for all old cities, My friend used to work for Chicago gas and said it is the same situation old pipes that they fix only as they Have to.

Wouldn't the replacement of old pipes and other infrastructure have not been a perfect
"Shovel Ready Job" for when Obama provided all that money?

10:58AM PDT on Mar 19, 2014

Our entire infrastructure is in dire need of repair or replacement

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