Con Ed: Changes Needed

Published on May 17, 2009, 7:19 pm
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Today, in advance of a Con Ed shareholders meeting on Monday, and with two deadly home explosions within two years, Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens), Chairman of the Council Committee on Oversight and Investigations, called for Con Ed to overhaul its evacuation policy to require evacuations when gas leak readings are high in manholes – not just inside homes.

Currently Con Ed’s policy does not mandate evacuations when readings are high in manholes, even when they are at dangerous levels.  Last month an outside gas leak where manhole readings were high led to the explosion which took the life of Ghanwatti Boodram, nearly a year and a half after a similar leak took the life of Kunta Oza.

“Con Ed clearly has not learned from its mistakes- and the result has been more tragedies,” said Councilman Gioia. “It is completely unacceptable that less than two years after the deadly Sunnyside explosion, such a similar situation led to another tragedy in Floral Park. Con Ed needs to evacuate, whether the leak is inside or outside. We’ve seen twice in two years that there can be deadly consequences whether the gas leak is inside or outside – Con Ed needs to change their evacuation policy before another tragedy occurs.”

There have been two deadly incidents within two years where manhole readings were high and in both instances homes were not evacuated.  In November 2007, an outside gas leak led to an explosion that claimed the life of Kunta Oza of Sunnyside. Nearly a year and a half later, an outside gas leak led to an explosion at 80-50 260th Street in Floral Park which took the life of Ghanwatti Boodram. According to published reports, Con Ed measured an extremely high gas reading of 80% in a manhole on the Boodram’s street, and yet failed to evacuate the neighborhood.

Currently, Con Ed does not require evacuations when manhole readings are high, also known as an outside leak, even when the gas readings reach dangerous levels. When inspectors investigated the gas leak in Floral Park last month, they found dangerous levels of gas, however since the gas leak was in a manhole, an evacuation was not ordered. In fact, Con Ed has 23 pages of procedure for gas leaks, and nowhere does it call for evacuations for outside leaks, even the most hazardous which require immediate action.

The 2007 explosion which killed Kunta Oza was also an outside gas explosion, and yet resulted in no change to the evacuation policy by Con Ed when high readings were taken in manholes. In addition, Con Ed’s current policy is to only test the house where a call comes from, leaving potentially dangerous situations where the home that is the source of the call tests negative but other adjoining homes would test positive.

In order to help prevent future tragedies, Gioia is calling on Con Ed to change its policy to require evacuations for the area that is potentially in danger when gas leaks, inside or outside, reach dangerous levels. Evacuations will help prevent tragedies like the one in Sunnyside in 2007 and the most recent explosion in Floral Park by requiring that Con Ed notify residents and evacuate them to safe areas.

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