BALTIMORE — The steam pipe that exploded on Tuesday is old and is lined with a cancer-causing material, the 11 News I-Team has discovered.
The steam pipe is believed to be 40 to 50 years old and lined with asbestos. Veolia North America confirmed low levels of asbestos in the accident area after the I-Team inquired about possible asbestos contamination.
The steady 50-foot plume from Tuesday's steam pipe burst spewed dirt, mud, asphalt and asbestos particles.
Environmental testing of air and soil continues around the site of Tuesday's steam pipe burst in the 200 block of Eutaw Street. Clean up is also ongoing, as crews hosed down damaged vehicles and swept up dust and debris.
The city is not directly involved in the cleanup or in the investigation. Mayor Catherine Pugh has pledged to check with the Law Department about getting a third party to oversee the work.
"We are still waiting for all the tests to come back. They said it is not of a harmful nature, but there is still a lot of testing going on, but we want to make sure that we clear that site in a way that is healthy for the environment and the city of Baltimore," Pugh said.
Gerald Jackson is a business agent for Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 486 who does not work for Veolia or with the company's investigation team. Based on his 37 years of experience, Jackson said he believes the steam pipe wore out."I would say age and wear. Generally speaking, steam lines in Baltimore City carry between 250 pounds and 270 pounds of pressure, and if that line is 40 to 50 years old, it's just wear that can cause that kind of burst of a pipe," Jackson said.
Jackson said the pipes are typically buried 2 to 6 feet underground, and the temperature can reach 400 degrees.
"Asbestos is like is a great material for heat resistance," Jackson said.
On Wednesday, company officials explained that "Veolia has a rigorous inspection and maintenance program to identify issues within the network before they occur."
"I'm not sure how they monitor the system without actually having some way to check the wall thickness of the pipe. If they don't do that, I'm not sure how they would monitor that," Jackson said.
Company officials said they won't begin assessing the damaged pipe until cleanup of the impacted area is complete.
Veolia released the following statement to 11 News Thursday:
As of Thursday morning, about 75 percent of the impacted site has been cleaned. Eutaw Street from the Marriott to Lombard St. is now open. Eutaw Street from Pratt to the Marriott remains closed.
Focus for the crews today:
Once the public walkways, surrounding buildings and impacted vehicles are cleaned and released, the Veolia crews will begin accessing the site of the pipe break.
Air quality remains normal. We will continue to monitor air quality for the duration of the cleanup and will continue analysis of environmental samples taken near the site.
We’re continuing to work with city and state safety, environmental and health officials to ensure safe and efficient restoration of the site.