By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Con Edison is making repairs on East 19th Street after a manhole fire in front of 151 East 19th Street on August 8 caused damage to the underground electrical system.
A resident of 201 East 19th Street resident told Town & Village this week that it sounded like an explosion on the street, along with black smoke and a power outage across the street from her apartment. She said that she didn’t lose power in her apartment, but noted that the lights did flicker.
Con Ed spokesperson Sidney Alvarez said that loss of power or damage to the underground equipment can sometimes create a loud clang but the incident was a manhole fire on the street and not an explosion.
“Sometimes this [kind of incident] could sound like an explosion and there could have been a lot of smoke that could look very severe to the general public,” Alvarez said. “We responded to multiple manhole fires at that location and there were no injuries reported and no property damage.”
Alvarez noted that on the day that the incident occurred, there had been heavy rain that day and severe weather can often affect service.
“Whether it’s heat or rain, it can cause problems with the underground electrical system,” he said. “The result could be an equipment failure or a problem with the manholes. Occasionally there can be explosions where the manhole cover lifts, but that’s not what happened here.”
Alvarez noted that Con Edison crews were on the street this week installing temporary shunts to provide service to customers nearby. He said that the shunts are in place to provide service to customers while repairs are being completed, although he did not have any specific information about a repair timeline or which buildings could be affected.
The resident noted that she had concerns about asbestos in the event of an explosion and coincidentally spoke with a reporter at T&V on the 30th anniversary of a steam pipe explosion that occurred on the corner of Third Avenue and East 20th Street on August 19, 1989.
Alvarez noted that since there had not been an explosion in the recent incident, the utility is not concerned with asbestos.