Horseheads natural gas explosion leads to increased safety efforts statewide

By Kelly McCarthy

February 20, 2014 Updated Feb 20, 2014 at 6:30 PM EST

Albany, NY (WBNG Binghamton) In an effort to improve natural gas safety, New York's Public Service Commission reviewed past explosions and shared recommendations to prevent more in the future.

The commission focused its report based on an explosion that happened in Horseheads in 2011.

On Jan. 26, 2011 the family at 198 Joseph St. was at home when natural gas caused an explosion. As a result, 15-month old Benjamin Reed was killed and two others seriously injured.

The cause of the explosion was later determined to be from stress corrosion and cracking of a natural gas pipeline.

"It's a sad reminder of the business we're in and the dangers that can be posed to the public and to workers," said Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman, "If things are not done precisely and were not aggressive."

The Public Works Commission released a number of recommendations to prevent future home explosions. The group recommends NYSEG should be more aggressive with checking and replacing services in Horseheads

NYSEG has until August of this year to replace all steel services in the Horseheads area.

The commission said more steps need to be taken to increase public education on drilling near gas lines and reporting natural gas odors.

"As we continue to look at natural gas both as a heating fuel, is making sure the public and local communities are aware of these issues," Zibelman said, "And that again we're doing everything we can to provide that awareness and allow people to be in a position to protect themselves."

To start increasing public awareness, the commission pointed out there is a number to call before doing any excavation work.

The dig safely NY call number is 811.

Also if someone thinks they smell natural gas, which is actually odorless, so a strong rotten egg smell was added to the gas, then it needs to be reported.

The commission hopes other events, like the one that happened in Horseheads, can be avoided if more people are aware of those two important facts.

NYSEG's Public Information Officer Clay Ellis said in an e-mailed statement, "We will never forget the tragic incident that occurred on Joseph Street, and we continue to sympathize with all of those who were affected by it. At the same time, it is important that we learn from this incident. It is essential that we continue to partner with excavators to minimize instances of third-party damage to underground facilities, the leading cause of natural gas incidents. Our shared goal for third-party damage should be zero. Further, it is critical for anyone who smells natural gas to contact their utility so the matter can be investigated and appropriately addressed."