New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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How to Decisively Deal with a Gas Leak

The Challenge

This is a cautionary story that goes back quite a few years. A year or so after we started managing a 1920s high-rise co-op, a shareholder called us and said she smelled gas in her apartment. We immediately sent over the plumber. The stove and the connection were fine, but the plumber traced the gas line into a shaft that was emitting a distinct odor of gas. An opening was made into the shaft, which held a number of original cooking gas lines servicing various apartments. Nothing unusual there – except that the shaft was also the chimney for the building’s heating plant! So, for roughly 60 years, active gas lines were located in a chimney which regularly reached temperatures of well over 500 degrees.

The Solution

We had the plumber immediately turn off the heating plant and arranged for a mobile steam unit to provide heat and hot water to residents. Rather than reroute all of the cooking gas lines, we consulted with an engineer and realized that the most efficient way to address the problem would be to erect an external stainless steel chimney in the courtyard to service the heating plant. This permitted the plumber to repair or run new gas lines using the existing “shaft” and have the lines tested so that cooking gas was restored to residents.

The Lesson

The board learned that one can never really trust building plans and that nothing in the physical plant should be taken for granted. It was a miracle that there had not been an explosion. The other lesson is that the board recognized that an experienced management firm – with the resources to know the appropriate professionals and contractors, and the confidence to know which steps to take – can help guide a potentially catastrophic situation to a successful conclusion relatively quickly. As we often say, you cannot make this stuff up.

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