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Construction Accident Sends Geyser of Gasoline

September 24, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ A backhoe knocked a valve off a gasoline pipeline, sending a 45-foot geyser of high-octane fuel into the air in a residential Staten Island neighborhood and spilling 35,000 gallons of gasoline, authorities said.

Although the two blocks nearest the leak Monday were covered with a soupy mixture of gasoline, fire-retardant foam, and sawdust, there were no fires, no explosions and no serious injuries in the accident off the Staten Island Expressway.

″God was very good to us,″ said Mayor Edward I. Koch after the spill was cleared up.

Deputy Fire Commissioner John Mulligan said 30 homes and a pre-school facility in the five blocks surrounding the leak were evacuated as a precaution. The leak in the 12-inch underground pipe was repaired shortly after noon, he said.

For the three previous hours, gasoline spurted from the valve at a rate of 40 to 50 gallons a minute, said Fireman Arthur Manfredi, a Fire Department spokesman.

Some of the fuel shot across the street, spraying the roofs of several condominiums under construction, Mulligan said.

An official of the company that owns the pipeline said the rupture occurred when an excavation contractor using a backhoe struck a fitting next to a valve.

James Kelly, a safety official with Buckeye Pipe Line Co., said the fitting is used to take pressure readings from the line. The valve was being replaced because of a faulty ″operator,″ a device governing its closure.

Another spokesman, Roy Aase, said the company would pay the cleanup costs.

The Buckeye pipeline, built in 1965, takes gasoline and jet fuel from Linden, N.J., to Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in Queens. Only gasoline was spilled.

One firefighter was injured when foam got in his eye, and one of the workers at the scene was soaked with gasoline and taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he was treated and released, Mulligan said.

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