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On Tuesday, federal authorities investigating the fatal East Harlem, NYC explosion and building collapse found a leak in the natural gas main adjacent to one of the structures.

That blast, which occurred last Wednesday, killed eight and injured dozens.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, tracer gas was pumped into the main that runs along Park Avenue between East 116th and East 117th streets as part of a pressure test. The main failed the test at what the agency said was a normal operating pressure.

Investigators identified a leak in the main “adjacent to 1646 Park Ave.,” the agency said. That building, along with 1644 Park Ave., collapsed after the blast.

The gas main in question is 8 inches in diameter and is composed of 127-year-old cast iron as well as newer plastic.

The newest discovery comes on the heels of last week’s disclosure that soil samples near the blast site indicated the presence of natural gas, pointing to a possible leak that may have preceded the explosion, officials said.

But even with this new information, pipeline explosion experts cautioned the recent findings might not offer conclusive evidence that an underground gas pipe leak was the explosion’s cause.

“What came first? The explosion or the gas line failure,” said Richard Kuprewicz, president of the pipeline safety consulting firm Accufacts Inc. in Redmond, Wash. “It just says there may have been a gas leak in the area. It doesn’t necessarily say that this gas leak is the leak that caused the explosion.”

Two other segments of gas pipes—smaller service lines that connect to buildings on the block to the main—were taken into evidence, the NTSB said. Those pipe segments are 20-feet and 3-feet long, respectively.

The NTSB said pressure testing of the service lines “continues with no significant findings to date.”

The NTSB also said it would remove a segment of cracked water main found leaking after the explosion in front of 1644 Park Ave. and ship it to the agency’s lab in Washington.

Authorities are expected to further investigate, warning that the process might be extended due to the damage in the area.

We’ll keep you updated with the latest developments.


Explosion Causes Two Buildings To Collapse In Harlem (PHOTOS)
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