How NYC Is Tackling Asbestos in Wake of Steam Pipe Explosion - NECN
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How NYC Is Tackling Asbestos in Wake of Steam Pipe Explosion

Con Edison says much of its 104-mile network of steam pipes is coated with asbestos insulation



    Hundreds Around Pipe Explosion Evacuated Over Asbestos Fears

    Nearly 50 buildings around the Flatiron District steam pipe explosion were evacuated and hundreds still don't know when they can go home because of asbestos concerns. Checkey Beckford reports. (Published Thursday, July 19, 2018)

    UPDATE: Asbestos Check at 28 "Hot Zone" Buildings Near Steam Pipe Blast Could Take Days

    The Flatiron steam pipe explosion that sent debris and asbestos spewing from the ground has officials taking no chances. 

    Con Edison says much of its 104-mile network of steam pipes is coated with asbestos insulation. Asbestos fibers can be thought of as tiny invisible feathers that, when disturbed, can float through the air and cause a very rare form of lung disease. 

    Mayor de Blasio has assured the city that tests showed no airborne asbestos but he also said the road to total decontamination may be days long.

    "If it might have gotten on your clothing, get your clothing off," de Blasio said.

    De Blasio said each one of the 28 buildings that were evacuated in the "hot zone" must be thoroughly assessed for the potential presence of asbestos, and residents won't be allowed to return to their homes -- with the exception of emergency needs -- until those assessments have been completed. The other 21 buildings that were evacuated will be assessed, but de Blasio said the presence of asbestos is less likely there. 

    Robert Komitor, an attorney who specializes in asbestos litigation, says it's important to re-test the air several times in the coming days, and for the 49 evacuated buildings to check their ventilation systems. 

    "The issue is whether these fibers that are on the street, that are on the buildings, that are on the cars, that are on the people's clothing, that they aren't re-entrained into the air. So you've gotta make sure to remove as much of the fiber as you can," he said. 

    Back in 1989, a Gramercy Park steam pipe bust, sending an estimated 200 pounds of asbestos into the air. Decontaminating nearby buildings took a month. And Con Edison pleaded guilty to conspiracy after being charge with misleading the public. 

    This time, the asbestos warnings have been loud and clear. 

    "The city seems to be taking a very cautious view, which may disrupt things in the short term, but in the long term, I think it's a much safer way of proceeding," said Komitor. 

    People who live or work in the area should keep windows closed until clean-up is completed, the city's health department says. Window air conditioners should be set to re-circulate indoor air, and if you see or have debris from the explosion, do not move it -- instead, contact your building manager or landlord right away. 

    Con Edison will work to compensate people for items they may have to toss due to exposure risk. Company personnel will be at 19th Street and Broadway, and at 22nd Street and Broadway until 9 p.m. Thursday to accept the clothing. Claim forms for clothing compensation are also available online at