As new information regarding a gas leak that lead to a fiery explosion and building collapse in East Harlem comes to light, we’re learning that the owner of one of the destroyed buildings actually avoided using gas for that same reason.
Wednesday’s blast killed eight and injured dozens. City officials and residents told reporters that they smelled gas in the area before the explosion.
But Kaoru Muramatsu, the owner of both the building and Absolute Piano, a music shop on the bottom floor, wanted to avoid using the highly combustible gas in lieu of an alternative — biodiesel fuel.
In fact, Muramatsu was a huge advocate of the fuel.
In 2010, she joined a panel of business leaders, environmental activists and politicians, including Melissa Mark-Viverito, then a New York City council member and now the council speaker, at a press conference promoting the fuel.
The conference was held at the piano store, and Muramatsu was one of the speakers, according to an invitation to the event.
Biodiesel is an unconventional fuel celebrated by proponents as a safer and cleaner alternative to both gas and petroleum. It is made of recycled vegetable oil, animal fats, and other substances. And in NYC, only about 1,000 buildings have heating systems that run solely on biodiesel.
Ironically, Muramatsu’s building at 1646 Park Avenue was one of them.
And despite her switch to the alternative energy source, tragedy struck on Wednesday. A gas leak was likely the cause of the explosion, with officials telling reporters it may have been caused by a leak in a pipe that ran beneath the street, feeding gas into other homes on the block.
Muramatsu could not be reached for comment, but Dehran Duckworth, a co-owner of Tri-State Biodiesel, confirmed that his Bronx-based company provided fuel to her building.
He called Muramatsu a “trendsetter,” saying she switched from pure petroleum to a petroleum-biodiesel blend about four years ago, and then more recently began using pure biodiesel, soon after it became available on the market.
Duckworth insisted that the biodiesel hadn’t been a factor. “It has a higher flashpoint than diesel, and a much higher flashpoint than natural gas,” he said.
Duckworth stressed that biodiesel is safer, too. “If there had been no gas on that street, there would have been no explosion,” he said.
As of Friday, authorities were still searching for survivors in the East Harlem rubble. Our prayers are with those who lost loved ones in this tragic accident.
SOURCE: Huffington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
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