The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

East Harlem Explosion:
Gas Company Profits Claim Eight Lives

Mar 31, 2014

Eight people were killed in a huge explosion in East Harlem on March 12. The blast also injured more than 60 people, at least two of them critically. Two apartment buildings were leveled, leaving at least 100 people homeless.

The disaster was totally avoidable. Residents had been smelling gas for weeks, and reporting it to the landlords and authorities. And sure enough, AFTER the explosion, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the ground under the buildings was saturated with natural gas, due to a leak in the 126-year-old cast-iron gas main.

Officials of the utility company serving the area, Consolidated Edison, said they responded to the complaints, but found no leaks when they “cruised the block” on February 28.

As outrageous as the company’s attitude toward safety sounds, it is confirmed by the words of Bob Ackley, a former gas company worker who was featured in the online magazine Matter. Ackley said that gas companies are quick to fix leaks that they consider “most dangerous,” but they would do nothing about most leaks that are reported.

And it’s not just in New York. Tens of thousands of leaks are reported across the U.S. every year, and explosions killing dozens of people have happened every year. Not surprisingly, because under U.S. cities there are thousands of miles of cast-iron pipes, decades old and corroded.

The money companies don’t spend on necessary repairs ends up in the pockets of shareholders as more profit. The capitalist system has turned our cities into powder kegs under our feet.