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FATAL GAS EXPLOSION EASILY PREVENTEDExcess Flow Valves: Available But Ignored

 WASHINGTON, June 11 /PRNewswire/ -- According to preliminary findings of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a natural gas explosion in New Jersey which killed two people and critically injured four others earlier this week, could have been prevented by a simple plastic valve that was never installed.
 NTSB investigators were dispatched to the scene to evaluate the blast which occurred Wednesday morning. Authorities said a gas company contractor was replacing the line outside a Monmouth County duplex, when the house exploded in flames. Five people who lived there fled out into the street, themselves on fire. Another burn victim, the mother of a 19-year-old woman who was killed in the explosion, was outside and witnessed the catastrophe. She suffered burns as she tried to rescue the others. None of the construction company workers was injured. The two-story structure was decimated.
 John O'Leary, acting head of the Gas Safety Action Council in Washington, said this is "a classic example of the kind of disaster that can be averted by excess flow valves. The technology is there. They've been tested and proved reliable and effective. All we're waiting for is action from the DOT to force utilities to install them."
 In September, Congress passed Public Law 102-508, known as the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act, which directed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to promulgate rules requiring the installation of so-called excess flow valves.
 Said O'Leary, "For 20 years DOT has ignored the repeated recommendations of the NTSB which has advocated the use of EFV's to prevent natural gas accidents caused by third party damage. Not until Congress directed DOT to act, did it begin to move toward issuing rules on EFV's. As a result of this delay, now another accident has taken two more lives, and it was probably preventable."
 Excess flow valves are simple plastic devices similar in function to electric circuit breakers. Installed in the feeder pipe from the gas main in the street, they shut off the gas whenever they sense an increase in flow. They're designed specifically for this type of accident, when a third party contractor inadvertently causes a rupture in the line.
 Industry sources estimate that more than 1 million excess flow valves are in the ground today. They have been available for the past 25 years and are relatively inexpensive. They cost around $20. When homeowners learn that such safety devices are available, they often request them. But it is the utility company which must install the valves and some utilities continue to resist using them.
 For more information on excess flow valve safety, contact The Gas Safety Action Council at 703-739-5915, or call your local gas utility company.
 -0- 6/11/93
 /CONTACT: Linda Dark of the Gas Safety Action Council, 703-739-5915/

CO: National Transportation Safety Board; Gas Safety Action Council;
 Department of Transportation ST: New Jersey; District of Columbia IN: OIL SU:

JM-MP -- PH020R -- 4511 06/11/93 15:08 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jun 11, 1993

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