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Calls For Gas Inspections Skyrocket After East Village Explosion

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Calls from customers concerned about gas leaks have risen sharply since the deadly explosion last week in the East Village, and Con Edison inspectors have been working at a frantic pace.

As WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported, Con Ed spokesman Alfonso Quiroz said in the six days after the explosion on Second Avenue on Thursday of last week, a 64 percent jump in emergency calls were reported.

In the last week, 1,700 people called in about the smell of natural gas – compared to less than 1,000 the week before.

"It's actually a very good thing," Quiroz said. "That's what we consider a good thing, because the leaks that are dangerous are the leaks that aren't reported to us."

Calls For Gas Inspections Skyrocket After East Village Explosion

Workers rushed to at least three scenes deemed top-priority and secured them. CBS2's Ilana Gold also went along with inspectors on Friday to show what they are looking for to prevent tragedy.

With permission from the building owner, CBS2 joined Con Ed for a routine inspection on West 155th Street in Harlem.

"We do have very rigid specifications and codes that we have to follow," said Con Ed inspector John Romano.

Inspectors were checking out newly-installed piping that will feed gas to a boiler.

"This pipe might be too low to the ground, or too high up," Romano said as he examined a pipe. "There might also be a section of pipe here where it's possible to tap into."

Crews found no problems at the 155th Street location, but they kept a lock on the pipe so gas could not run through it before Con Ed gives final approval.

"This way, no one can turn the service on and off without Con Edison knowing about it," Romano said.

Inspectors said newly-installed piping in the building that exploded in the East Village last week also had a lock on it. Con Edison did not want anyone using the plumbing, because it had failed inspection less than an hour before the scare.

Sources told CBS2 plumbers may have tapped into a gas line from another room or a different building as a way to get around the locked pipe illegally in the East Village incident. It was unclear Friday evening whether that, or something else, caused the explosion.

"We have a full volume of inspections to carry out," said Con Ed spokesman Phillip O'Brien. "This is a very busy city with lots of this type of work going on."

Since the Second Avenue explosion, residents said they are much more aware of the smell of natural gas.

And following one report right across the street from the explosion site, there is a stop work order.

"The leaks that are most dangerous are the ones that are not reported," O'Brien said.

Investigators said someone from the restaurant in the 121 Second Ave. building that exploded smelled natural gas and reported it to the landlord, but no one said anything to Con Ed.

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