Explosion and Hot Zones
At 6:40 AM on July 19th, 2018, an 86-year-old steam pipe exploded in the heart of the Flatiron District, blowing a crater (the size of a bus) in Fifth Avenue. The eruption sent smoke, mud and asbestos fibers throughout the block and the surrounding area. According to the OEM, a direct cause is still unknown and the investigation can take up to six months. According to Mayor de Blasio, forty four buildings have been evacuated and twenty-eight buildings are in what officials call the “hot zone,” displacing about 500 people from nearly 250 units in those buildings. Despite all air samples testing negative there is still a “real concern” regarding carcinogenic debris that was thrown stories high by the rupture and could have gotten into people’s buildings or air conditioners.
The Cleanup: When can you return to your building?
“Asbestos is a killer, so we have to be very careful with how we clean the buildings, how we clean the streets,” OEM Commissioner Joe Esposito said. There is still not a clear timeline for when all Flatiron residents and workers will be able to return to the area around the blast. Residents and employees should be eligible to return to their buildings once all debris are removed, a thorough and complete exterior building cleaning has been conducted, and the interior of all buildings have been deemed to be chemical free. However, Alfonso Quiroz, a spokesman for Con Ed, reasoned that the reopening of all the buildings could take “a couple of days, depending on what is found inside the buildings.”
Finally, as of Monday morning, things are finally starting to return back to normal while the OEM, the FDNY and Con Edison provide efficient cleaning and decontamination services. Additionally, the summer showers over the weekend played a major role in the cleanup, the runoff was able to accelerate the process by washing away the asbestos fibers into an area where the chemicals were disposed of properly.
What is steam used for?
Today, with more than 100 miles of steam piping and nearly 2,000 buildings served, New York’s steam system is the largest in the world (Con Edison is the primary supplier – distributing approximately 55% of all NYC Steam). Customers depend on steam to provide heat, cooling and hot water in their buildings. Additionally, some of the hospitals in the area use the steam Con Edison supplies to sterilize medical equipment.
Just four hours after the explosion Con Edison reported 27 places were out of service because of the explosion, including three hotels. Seven of the entities were seasonal customers whose service was already off, Drury said.
Have you been impacted personally?
Fill out a claim forum or attend a community briefing.
The city plans to hold two community meeting for anyone affected by the explosion on Monday at The Clinton School at 10 E. 15th St.
Building and business owners can attend a meeting that will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tenants, meanwhile, can attend a second meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.
If your business or building has been affected as a result of the steam pipe eruption you can fill out a claim forum from Con Edison below.