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Editorial: Public needs answers on gas explosions

National Grid now faces a $250,000 fine.

National Grid now faces a $250,000 fine. Credit: News 12 Long Island

In the wake of two gas explosions, two dozen injuries, millions of dollars in damage and a Public Service Commission report that says one negligent employee was responsible for both disasters, National Grid owes the public a lot more than it has provided so far. It owes an explanation, and proof that it has or will improve its operations.

The PSC report issued last month said two explosions were caused by a worker who failed to take required precautions. The first occurred in a vacant home in Brentwood in 2011 when the employee worked on a gas line but did not ensure service was off or use a locking device to stop gas from flowing into the building. That house blew up 11 days later, also damaging nearby homes.

The same employee worked on a water heater in a condominium in a 10-unit building in Central Islip in 2012, but did not follow protocol that called for relighting the water heater and testing the home's gas meter and pipes. That explosion happened minutes after the worker left, and it destroyed the building.

After the second incident, the employee was not tested for drugs and alcohol, as required by state regulations. National Grid has refused to explain whether that person was disciplined or retrained after the first incident or the second one. A company representative said Monday the worker was no longer with the company, but would not describe why the worker left.

National Grid needs to provide more answers about what happened, and establish safeguards to prevent it happening again.