Edison, New Jersey natural gas explosion
The Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion and Fire occurred in Edison, New Jersey on March 23, 1994 where a 36-inch (910 mm) diameter natural gas pipeline broke and exploded into flames next to the Durham Woods apartment complex along New Durham Road at its junction with Interstate 287. The cause of this breakage was given by the NTSB as mechanical damage. The resulting fire destroyed or severely damaged 14 of the apartment buildings. Over 1,500 apartment residents were evacuated, 100 residents were left homeless, and one death occurred from a heart attack suffered by Sandra Snyder, who was unable to summon emergency workers "amid the chaos." Because the fire occurred so close to the Durham Woods complex, residents in the area also refer to it as the Durham Woods fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation found a gouge in the pipe, probably caused by excavation equipment years earlier; in combination with brittle pipe material and excessive operating pressures likely led to the rupture. NTSB also found fault with the lack of automatic or remote-controlled shutoff valves: the manual valves were difficult to reach and close, preventing operators from promptly cutting off gas that fueled the fire. Also, NTSB found that Texas Eastern failed to adequately monitor excavation activity on its right of way.
"One call" system
In response to the fire, New Jersey passed regulations requiring excavators to call a telephone hotline prior to digging so that pipeline companies can mark the precise locations of their pipes on the dig site. By 1996, the "one call" concept became an accepted national practice, although New Jersey lawmakers continued to call for tougher federal laws on pipeline safety.
Following the fire, over 2,000 tenants of Durham Woods and nearby residences sued Texas Eastern and 29 other defendants, including the township, Durham Woods' landlord, and the excavator who cracked the pipeline. By 1997, over half of these suits had been settled, most for "$25,000 or less," but with $585,000 going to Sandra Snyder's estate. By 2000, Texas Eastern had paid "nearly $65 million" in settlements.
On March 23, 1994, late night syndicated radio host Art Bell interviewed Neal Chase, who had predicted the nuking of New York City for that exact day. Bell became hysterical and lost his radio composure when he read the headline that came over the news-wire just at the start of his interview with Chase that "Newark Had Been Nuked!" This headline referred to the exact report of the eye-witness account of a pilot flying into Newark seeing the large fireball and mushroom cloud from the Edison gas explosion. The pillar of fire—after the initial flash of the blast—reached hundreds of feet into the night sky.
- "Huge Gas Pipeline Explosion Rocks Northeast New Jersey". New York Times. March 24, 1994. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
A huge natural gas explosion rocked Edison, New Jersey, late last night, lighting a fierce orange blaze that destroyed several nearby apartment buildings and turned night into day for miles around. At least 23 people were evacuated by emergency services to hospital, and about 70 others reported to hospitals on their own. The source of the inferno was a natural gas pipeline owned by ...
- New York Times; March 27, 1994, "Federal investigators found evidence today that a rupture in a gas pipeline that touched off a powerful explosion at an apartment complex here may have been caused by repeated damage to the pipeline from construction equipment. After searching a jagged crater carved by the blast near Durham Woods apartments, ..."
- New York Times; March 30, 1994, The lawyer for an asphalt plant situated next to a natural gas pipeline that ruptured and exploded here last Wednesday said today that the plant's current operators had not done any digging on the property in the 10 years they owned it. The lawyer, Vincent Gentile, said the asphalt ..."
- "Gas Explosion Settlements", WRNN-TV, Sept. 29, 1997
- Home News Tribune; June 17, 2000, "Houston-based Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. has paid nearly $65 million to settle residents' lawsuits."
- "A decade later, legacy of Edison blast persists", Edison-Metuchen Sentinel, Mar. 31, 2004
- NTSB Report Reconsideration
- NTSB Report
- Edison, N.J. Pipeline Explosion & MCI, an hour-by-hour narrative by EMT Daniel J. Januseski
- Edison Natural Gas Explosion Video
- Durham Woods Apartments
- Texas Eastern Transmission (subsidiary of Duke Energy)
- One Call Systems information from API/AOPL
- Fire Engineering article