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The Gas Leak in Building 4
What Everyone Needs to Know

A DISCLAIMER:
 The information here is accurate to the best of our abilities.  We have done our best to verify the information using well-known sources. For instance, the info on gas stoves is from Scientific American and the Huffington Post. The material on asbestos came from several governmental sources, plus Wikipedia.  Links to these sources, and others, are listed at the end of this article. 

URGENT:

If you are a resident of Building 4 and you have an original stove with a pilot light, NOW is the time to replace it.  

Not only is a new stove better for your health, but you’ll save hundreds of dollars on installation.

 

Reasons to replace your old stove:

• Management will cover the cost of hooking up the gas and all inspections

• Management will pay for installing a new electric connection, if needed

• Pilot lights waste gas, which we all pay for

• Pilot lights may double the health risks of gas stoves

• Pilot lights contribute to climate change

• New features are available in gas stoves:

- sealed burners that are easy to clean

- self-cleaning ovens

- convection and double ovens

 

Don’t delay — Management will cover the installation and inspection costs while the work is being done. Once the gas lines have been replaced and the walls closed up, that may not be the case.

INTRODUCTION:

Volunteers for East River Neighbors are working to assemble all of the relevant information we need regarding the gas leak in Building 4. Additional information will be added as it becomes available. We will avoid speculation about what was or wasn’t done, or who may or may not have been responsible. Although the initial communications were inconsistent, we applaud the Board for being more forthcoming of late, both in their memos and in holding virtual town meetings. We sincerely hope this will continue.

Here are the incident reports from ConEd and FDNY.


We have also collected copies of most (but not yet all) the related memos and updates issued by Management and those can be read here.

We have been able to draw the following conclusions:

• A gas leak was detected in an apartment in Building 4

• The leak was in the wall and not merely from the stove

• Con Ed decided it was necessary to shut off gas to the entire building

• Steps have been taken to make it easier to find and shut off gas for each apartment line

• Once gas has been shut off, a pressure test must be done before gas can be restored

• Most older buildings do NOT meet current standards

• A failed pressure test does NOT mean the line isn’t safe

• Gas pipes that fail a pressure test must be replaced

• Routine tests for gas leaks are done on a regular basis; however, testing is limited to the ground floor

• Any resident who thinks they smell gas is encouraged to call maintenance or to call 911

ASBESTOS - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Asbestos was used throughout the 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s for insulation. It was used in construction materials and in talc, and could even be found in children’s crayons. Asbestos brake pads shed particles into the air, far and wide. Asbestos was used in the construction of the Twin Towers and significant quantities were released when the towers fell. However, far more carcinogenic toxins were also released.

 

In short, you already have some asbestos in your lungs. 

Bans were placed on the use of asbestos in certain products in the late 1970s, and the Environmental Protection Agency banned all new uses of asbestos in 1989; however, that ban was overturned in federal court. 

 

Asbestos is still being imported into the U.S. and it’s still being mixed into concrete to give it added strength.

FAQ:

Q: What exactly is asbestos?

A: Asbestos is a class of naturally-occurring minerals with bundles of durable, heat-resistant fibers.

Q: What are the health hazards of asbestos?

A: Once embedded in human tissue, asbestos fibers will remain in place forever. Inhaled fibers will remain in the lungs for the rest of your life. That can lead to a particular kind of fibrosis known as asbestosis. However; asbestosis is generally only found in people who worked with asbestos in their occupation.

Q: Doesn’t asbestos cause cancer?

A: Asbestos can cause a rare form of lung cancer known as mesothelioma that may not present until decades after exposure. Other forms of lung cancer are much less common.

Q: Why do our buildings have asbestos?

A: Like most buildings built after WW II, the plumbing was wrapped with asbestos to help keep the hot water hot.

Q: If asbestos causes cancer, shouldn’t it all be removed?

A: Asbestos that’s encased in insulation is better left alone, safe inside our walls.

Q: What does asbestos have to do with the work being done on the gas pipes?

A: In most of the apartment lines, the gas pipes are separated from the water pipes, so there is no need to deal with asbestos. However; in some of the apartment lines, the gas pipes are right next to the water pipes and they can’t be removed without disturbing the asbestos. The greatest risk is actually to the plumbers, who risk breathing it into their lungs and carrying it home on their skin and clothing.

 

Q: Why can’t the plumbers simply remove the asbestos before they start to work on the gas pipes?

A: There are very strict regulations for asbestos removal. If asbestos fibers escape and settle onto furniture and other surfaces, they can be breathed in later, possibly causing cancer. Asbestos should only be removed by trained professionals.

 

Q: What are the regulations for asbestos removal?

A: Without going into too much detail, asbestos must be removed by a company certified to do the work. The area must be sealed off behind a plastic tent and workers must wear protective gear. Air samples must be taken, both inside and outside the tent, to ensure that nothing escapes.

 

Q: Has the co-op hired a company to remove the asbestos in apartments where it’s necessary?

A: The Board has hired Asbestways, a Brooklyn-based company with decades of experience.

 

Q: How will I know that my apartment is safe after the work has been finished?

A: Asbestways is required to follow all regulations, including the taking of air samples and testing by an independent lab. If asbestos escape is detected, all work will stop and the surrounding area thoroughly cleansed until no traces of asbestos are found. Once the asbestos removal is complete, the area inside the tent will be thoroughly cleaned and tested before the tent is removed.

 

Q: What about the apartments where the asbestos is not removed?

A: In apartment lines where the gas pipes are separated from the water pipes, the asbestos insulation will be left alone, undisturbed, where it will safely remain once the walls are closed up.

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Coming soon: Safe use of electric cooking appliances, and why we all should consider using them for everyday cooking in place of our gas stoves.

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