Source of worrisome gas leak in DUMBO discovered, repaired

June 11, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A National Grid worker inflates a temporary patch around a leaking gas pipe running under Jay Street in DUMBO.  Photo by Mary Frost
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National Grid has successfully tracked down the source of a persistent gas leak near 51 Jay St. in DUMBO. The leak, which at times emitted a pervasive odor, has alarmed residents and workers for months.

On Wednesday, workers discovered that the gas was escaping from a previously patched gas main buried under Jay Street near Water Street. The gas had traveled underground and was venting from a nearby sewer grate, making finding the actual location of the leak tricky, the National Grid crew said.

After discovering the leak, workers wrapped three inflatable patches around the spot as a temporary fix. According to National Grid spokesperson Karen Young, a permanent custom clamp was installed on Thursday, and the crew backfilled the excavation. The site was scheduled to be repaved on Friday.

“Our crews have made a permanent repair,” Young said. “This was a non-hazardous leak that we were aware of and monitoring very closely.”

Workers told the Brooklyn Eagle that the gas main under western Jay Street must eventually be replaced. Young, however, said the main is not scheduled for replacement.

The New York City Fire Department had been called to the intersection nine times over the past year, FDNY spokesperson Frank Dwyer told the Eagle on April 29.

Though residents worried about an explosion, National Grid said that the gas had been dissipating harmlessly into the air. Still, the company urged people to always call 911 to report the smell of gas.

The hole dug by National Grid revealed layers of bricks from an earlier era buried far under the ground. According to the Forgotten New York website, bricks were the primary form of street paving in New York City before macadam and blacktop – or, as in DUMBO, Belgium block — replaced them.

The intersection where the leak occurred is surrounded by busy venues including St. Ann’s Warehouse and the technology and startup hub at 20 Jay St., with Brooklyn Roasting Company nearby.

Leaking gas pipes are a long-term problem in New York City. According to a report on New York City’s aging infrastructure issued by the Center for an Urban Future (CUF), over half of New York City’s 6,000-plus miles of gas mains were installed before 1960. 

National Grid oversees the gas infrastructure in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Consolidated Edison has responsibility for the remaining NYC boroughs.

Just under half of National Grid’s mains are made of unprotected steel or cast iron, while 60 percent of Con Ed’s mains are composed of these vulnerable materials. According to CUF, National Grid experienced 45 leaks per 100 miles of main in 2012, a record slightly better than Con Ed’s.

Besides being explosive, natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas and leaks are bad for the environment. In New York City, 1.5 percent of National Grid’s gas is unaccounted for, as is 2.2 percent of Con Ed’s, reports CUF.


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