A hearing was held before the Committee on Consumer Affairs of the New York City Council August 7th, 2007, into what caused the Consolidated Edison steam pipe explosion in Midtown Manhattan on July 18th. Council members were exasperated by the failure of Con Eds chairman and chief executive, Kevin M. Burke, to appear at the hearing, particularly in light of Mr. Burkes handling of the nine-day outage that crippled the Astoria section of Queens in July of 2006.
Council members were also decidedly unhappy with the inability of the person Con Ed did send, William Longhi, its senior vice president for central operations, to say what caused the blast. Mr. Longhi did not have answers to questions the council posed weeks ago when it called the hearings. He refused to give even a preliminary opinion as to the cause of the blast. Mr. Longhi likened Con Ed’s investigation to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into an airplane crash which normally takes one year. This only further antagonized the council members, including Christine C. Quinn, the Council speaker, who noted that the NTSB does issue preliminary reports setting forth possible causes of the crash being investigated.
One pedestrian was killed and dozens of others sustained personal injuries in the steam pipe blast, which occurred near the intersection of Lexington Avenue and East 41st Street on July 18. At present, Lexington Avenue remains closed in the area of the explosion.
Con Ed employees and its contractors are engaged in a great deal of work making repairs in the roadway which is dug up. Con Ed has a booth set up near the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street where passersby can stop and get information.
Con Ed has a monopoly on running the 105 miles of steam pipes under the city’s streets. The steam pipe explosion this summer and last summer’s 9-day blackout are causing some to question whether Con Ed should continue to enjoy such a monopoly and whether the Public Service Commission should review the situation.
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