According to the United States Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHTMSA), at the end of 2017, 97 percent of the nation’s natural gas distribution pipelines were made of plastic or steel. However, there are thousands of miles of cast or wrought iron service pipelines that deliver natural gas to homes and businesses around the country. Less than half of the United States has eliminated cast iron pipelines.
Cast iron pipelines are out of sight. Because natural gas pipelines are underground, problems can occur without anyone knowing about them. If there is a gas leak, a homeowner may be able to smell the natural gas or hear an unusual sound near a gas line. However, there are many instances in which a pipeline issue is discovered too late. Something flammable could ignite natural gas without warning.
In addition to leaks, construction workers have hit pipelines while excavating sites. Property owners have accidentally punctured pipelines while digging on their property. If there was already natural gas building in that area, if it comes into contact with excessive heat or anything flammable, it could cause an explosion.
Cast iron pipelines are susceptible to corrosion. Over time, iron can undergo a process called “graphitization.” This means iron degrades or corrodes over time due its chemical makeup. When cast iron pipelines corrode, there is a risk of them cracking or leaking at their joints. Even a small gas leak could have catastrophic consequences if it catches fire.
Cast iron pipelines are old. According to PHSMA, many of the remaining cast iron pipelines in the United States were installed more than 60 years ago. Some of them are more than a century old. Not only does age affect susceptibly to corrosion, but something that old needs to be properly maintained and many pipelines are not. Years of inclement weather like freezing and flooding impact underground pipelines. Over time, shifts in soil and ground levels can cause old pipelines to crack and leak.
Though federal regulators push utility companies to replace cast iron pipelines, there are no deadlines to enforce change. Unfortunately, all it takes is a small accident to trigger gas that has built up over time.
Need a Houston Pipeline Explosion Attorney?
If you or someone you love has been affected by a pipeline explosion, we recommend that you call The Law Office of Daniel D. Horowitz, III PC as soon as possible. We help our clients gather evidence, determine the cause of the explosion and identity negligent parties. Then, we fight aggressively for compensation to cover our clients’ injuries and damages.