Explosion Caused By Faulty Water Heater Installation Damages 20 Homes
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/10/2012 -- Two men in upstate New York caused a natural gas explosion when they tried to install a home water heater. The accident caused the men to be severely burned, destroyed three homes, and damaged 20 others. The two men, an 86-year-old former handyman who owned the Corning, New York residence and his 38-year-old grandson, had failed to disconnect the gas line properly. The blast on a Friday morning in August was reportedly heard throughout the city of 11,000.
The do-it-yourselfer octogenarian had lost his sense of smell, and his grandson was suffering from a sinus condition. Thus, neither detected the odor of the natural gas seeping into the basement before one of them lit a propane torch in order to sweat copper fittings on the gas pipe.
The Corning police chief said the men were pulled from the wreckage by neighbors. Authorities said they survived due to having been working in a corner of the basement, somewhat shielding them from the blast that moved up and away from them. The home’s walls blew straight out. Its roof went straight up in the air, according to the local fire chief. When a rescue crew arrived to airlift them to a hospital, it found wreckage from neighborhood homes hanging from trees and floating in a nearby swimming pool.
A veteran plumber on the plumbing board in nearby Binghamton, New York, points to the incident as the latest proof that tighter standards are needed for potentially dangerous jobs. The board official called for an end to local laws letting homeowners, and in some cases unqualified contractors, perform such potentially dangerous work. The two men whose home repair attempts turned into a demolition had not violated any local ordinances, the Corning fire chief noted.
Besides the danger of devastating explosion, botched plumbing work can cause air and water contamination, notes Rudy Gaspar, who has over 40 years experience in the trade. He added, “There are so many things that can go wrong,” and urged local communities to step up site inspections and review of work permits. Although some local regulations contain loopholes that less-qualified contractors do the work, Gaspar cautions that potentially dangerous jobs like installing gas-fired water heaters should only be done by “properly trained and licensed plumbers.”
Even before the incident, plumbing board officials and trade groups had been advocating tighter regulations, to prevent unqualified persons from attempting potentially dangerous plumbing projects. The Binghamton city council recently voted to withdraw with an agreement recognizing licenses from Oneonta, another city in the area, after finding that some plumbers based in other cities were getting licensed in Oneonta due to lower licensing standards there.
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