A gas leak is an emergency and it calls for immediate action. If immediate action isn’t taken, there may be a very real threat of an explosion that could be deadly! All property owners can simplify gas restoration after gas shutoff by contracting to assist. Here NY Engineers ensure all filings are done correctly and timeously and we oversee the work required of gas systems and ensure that gas shutoff and restoration are done in accordance with the relevant legislation.
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A gas leak is an emergency and it calls for immediate action. If immediate action isn’t taken, there may be a very real threat of an explosion that could be deadly!
New York City (NYC) has a Local Law (153 of 2016) that specifies the procedure tenants must follow if they suspect there is a gas leak in the building:
Even if there isn’t an explosion, leaking gas pipes literally funnel methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, adding to global warming.
There are some leaks that are caused by damage to pipes, but most are the result of corrosion and long term wear-and-tear. Some are the result of illegal gas connections (see below).
Whatever the cause of a leaking gas line, unless there are isolation valves that can be used to shut off one section of the line, the entire gas system must be shut-off and the piping repaired or replaced. If there are isolation valves, homeowners are advised to use these to stop the flow of gas into the building if they:
When gas distribution and/or gas meter piping is repaired, replaced, altered, or extended, it is essential for safety reasons that the gas is shut off. While this may be because of a gas leak that has been detected, it might also be due to wear and tear or damage of some other kind.
Illegal gas lines are also a recognized cause. For example, a major explosion in East Village, Manhattan (see picture top left), where two people were killed and at least 19 injured, is said to have been caused by multiple gas lines that had been tapped into the existing legal Con Edison pipeline that serviced a restaurant in the building.
Ironically, several days before the explosion, a new gas line was being installed to service apartments in the same building. Con Edison employees had inspected the new piping system an hour before the explosion and for reasons that were notrelated to safety, didn’t pass it. Instead, the new gas line was locked off. The inspectors were not aware of the illegally diverted gas lines, but as soon as they left, “a private contractor” tried to reconnect the lines and, according to an article in the New York Times, set off the explosion.
There were also reports at the time that there were 37 open violations in the area, at least five of which were considered to be “hazardous” (see Local Laws below). The gas shutoff legislation should have been enforced for at least the five hazardous violations.
Other safety concerns might also result in gas shutoff. For instance, it is known that some types of boiler and generator equipment can have an adverse effect on Con Edison gas regulators and meters. Con Edison supplies customers with guidelines of what to do to ensure that their equipment operates correctly and safely. If customers follow these instructions and there are still problems, Con Edison generally performs gas shutoff and safety tags the equipment until the problems have been corrected. They insist on doing all service reconnections.
Various fuel gas codes including the 2018 International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC), considered to be a model code, the Fuel Gas Code of New York State, which is based on the IFGC, and the New York City Fuel Gas Code govern the installation of fuel-gas piping systems, fuel-gas appliances, and related accessories.
The NYC Fuel Gas Code refers specifically to the NYC’s Department of Buildings (DOB) as the enforcement agency for the Code. It also refers to specific safety shutoff devices as flame safeguards. These are devices that automatically shut off the supply of fuel if a main burner or group of burners aren’t working and flame failure occurs.
Additionally, NYC Codes and the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) now require gas safety valves to be installed in the sidewalk outside homes.
Appendix E of the NYC Fuel Gas Code specifies what is required for compliance with outside gas cut-off:
In addition to fuel gas codes and state laws, local laws have very specific requirements including the need for NYC’s DOB to perform final inspections on gas piping systems. Additionally, a new local law that came into effect in 2019 requires the periodic inspection of buildings no less than every five years.
All NYC local laws were introduced to enhance safety as well as to protect tenants in the event of outages. They also aim to improve information sharing between gas utilities (National Grid and ConEd) servicing the City, and the various City agencies.
NYC Local Law 159 refers directly to gas shutoff and there are several violations that that are classified as “immediately hazardous”:
The procedure to be followed by tenants who suspect gas leaks in buildings is specified above (see Gas Leaks.) Building owners also have responsibilities in terms of this local law, No. 153 of 2016:
NYC local laws define immediate hazards as either Class A or Class B conditions.
Building owners are also obliged, by law, to install and maintain natural gas alarms in accordance with DOB standards.
Both utility companies that service different parts of New York offer comprehensive guidelines and specifications for natural gas installations.
In A Customer Guide to Natural Gas Service Installation, Con Edison states that if gas service has been discontinued (cut-off) for more than six months because of a fire or something else, a gas meter pressure test verification affidavit will need to be submitted. The same applies to Westchester County.
Con Edison also warns that there are several situations that might arise where the company must be notified to avoid an interruption of the gas service to customers:
In any of these circumstances, Con Edison schedules a shut-down when they have been notified. Customer contractors are not permitted to do this work.
See also Gas Restoration Procedures below.
The NYC Housing Preservation & Development Department warns that property owners must “act to restore” gas for heating, for hot water, or for cooking immediately any of these services are disrupted. They also warn that tenants might be entitled to deductions in the rental if they don’t.
If the gas service is shut-off for any reason there are three requirements for restoration that must be fulfilled:
The licensed plumber is expected to start the gas restoration process immediately after filing an emergency work notice (EWN) with the DOB. This request must state exactly what needs to be done. Within five days of approval, the plumber must file a limited application alteration (LAA) with the DOB. If this is not done timeously a stop work order (SWO) might be issued by the DOB, which is likely to result in delays.
The utility companies also follow set procedures and customers need to be aware of these.
For instance, only Con Edison employees may re-open a meter valve after it has been closed. Service restoration requires a gas integrity test form to be submitted before Con Edison can energize the gas service.
As mentioned above, Con Edison sometimes performs gas shutoff and safety tags boilers and other equipment until certain problems have been corrected and they agree to do the service reconnection.
National Grid also issues warning tags which involves gas shutoff to individual appliances and or a section of gas piping that is in a hazardous condition. Licensed qualified contractors may restore the gas service. If necessary, a local inspector might have to inspect it.
If National Grid issues a warning tag that results in the gas supply being cut-off and locked at the meter, the contractor must notify National Grid once the hazardous condition has been corrected and request National Grid reconnects the service.
Ultimately, before the gas can be legally restored, the licensed plumber must perform a pressure test in the presence of an official from the DOB.
All property owners can simplify gas restoration after gas shutoff by contracting to assist. We ensure all filings are done correctly and timeously and we oversee the work required.