Lessons learned from gas explosion

While no one was hurt when three manhole covers blew their stacks and popped out of their housings Monday, residents in Brooklyn Heights want to make sure they’re not subject to another bout of underground indigestion.

Local elected officials and National Grid are reportedly reviewing exactly what sparked the afternoon fireworks in the hopes that any similar incidents can be avoided in the future.

Tensions were frayed at the corner of Willow Place and Joralemon Street Monday when the three manhole covers exploded.

The force of the impact created small volcano-like craters around the manhole openings, damaging the Belgian blocks that had just been replaced there.

Traffic along Willow Street was suspended this week as crews try to estimate the damage.

It’s believed that a contractor working for National Grid came in contact with an underground Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) electrical line as they installed gas service to a home on Willow Place.

The interaction triggered the explosions as well as an MTA power outage.

More than 150 rattled residents were evacuated from their homes as FDNY crews responded. The 4 and 5 subway lines running under Willow Place were suspended for upwards of six hours.

A spokesperson for National Grid said that only one home suffered a gas leak although earlier reports said that several residents reported smelling gas in their homes.

Everything was back to normal by late afternoon, save for the clean up and ensuing investigation.

“We always do an investigation after an incident like this,” said National Grid spokesperson Karen Young, who added that company investigators were working with the FDNY and the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

While the investigation may take some time to complete. Young shared with this paper that the outside contractor working with National Grid — which she couldn’t name — did have all the proper permits. The contractor had also made a “call before you dig” query — something every contractor must do before ripping into city streets.

The precaution is taken so the contractor will have all of the underground pipes and wires mapped out in front of him before his first incision. Ironically, the precaution is designed to avoid what happened on Monday, which leads some to believe that further investigation is warranted.

“I am relieved that no local residents were hurt but remain very concerned that this explosion, which could have seriously injured residents, even occurred,” explained City Councilmember Stephen Levin. “I am pleased that National Grid and the MTA are working around the clock to repair the damage and have fully restored service.”

Levin said that he will work with the city’s Department of Transportation “to ensure that Joralmeon Street and Willow Place are fully restored to their condition prior to this incident, including the replacement of all Belgian blocks.”

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