Harlem blast investigators zeroing in on pipeline joint

Couplings on two gas tubes underneath Park Avenue to be examined as possible source of leak

Oil and gas pipe couplings
Oil and gas pipe couplings

The coupling of two pieces of gas pipe beneath Park Avenue — one made of cast iron and laid in 1887, another of plastic in 2011 — are likely to draw scrutiny from National Transportation Safety Board investigators searching for the cause of a March 12 explosion in East Harlem.

Such joints linking pipelines can spring leaks if not properly installed, experts told the Wall Street Journal. One such juncture was blamed for a 2008 explosion in Rancho Cordova, Calif., that killed one and injured five others.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Investigators plan to examine bits of pipe collected at the scene of the building collapse, as well as the the gas main’s maintenance records. The agency told the Journal that it already found “small gas leaks below the pavement,” but said it is too soon to know whether leaks in the main were responsible for the blast.

“We are not ruling anything out,” an NTSB spokesperson told the Journal. [WSJ]Julie Strickland