Letter: Question raised over safety of gas pipeline
To the Editor:
A natural gas explosion in New Jersey earlier this month, triggered by a contractor who damaged the gas line, killed one person, injured seven others and destroyed at least 10 homes.
Eight days later, a major gas leak caused a devastating explosion in East Harlem that killed eight people, injured dozens and reduced two apartment buildings to rubble.
So even if the probability is low, how confident should any New Canaan resident or town official be in the representations that cement trucks weighing up to 70,000 pounds can safely bridge the 30-foot width of gas pipeline that runs behind the YMCA while children and adults are inside and neighbors live nearby? The YMCA's construction proposal would have numerous cement trucks and flatbed trailers carrying steel repeatedly crossing a 50-plus year-old pipeline carrying gas at 700 pounds of pressure.
According to the YMCA's natural gas consultant, crossing that narrower stretch of pipeline behind the building, even with the proposed "bridge-type structure," lowers, but does not eliminate, the possibility of damaging the pipeline (when compared to running the trucks along the pipeline through the side parking lot).
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"Without being histrionic," its consultant wrote in a Feb. 18 letter to Planning & Zoning Chairman Laszlo Papp, "the complete failure of the Pipeline could be catastrophic to the YMCA and the neighborhood, similar to what occurred in the 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno, CA, that took several lives, severely injured dozens others, and destroyed homes over a several block area."
Although it purports to be concerned about safety, the YMCA cited increased costs and threatened to sue if the town approved an alternative, and safe, route using the edge of the Saxe field. And not wanting to forgo fees, it flatly rejects temporarily shutting down programs (which could be relocated), so trucks could access the South Avenue parking lot during the heavy construction phase -- a plan that would remove children and adults from the site and avoid the pipeline altogether.
We don't have to look to California to see how dangerous a pipeline mishap can be, even by the most careful contractor. We only have to look a few miles beyond our town.