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'Abnormal pipe wall thinning' blamed for June's steam pipe explosion in Baltimore

The steam pipe explosion in downtown Baltimore that injured five people on June 20 appears to have been caused by “abnormal pipe wall thinning,” Veolia North America officials said Wednesday.

Veolia, the company that manages the city's 15-mile network of steam pipes, issued a statement touching on the results of their investigation. The company excavated and inspected a section of the steam pipe that ran beneath Eutaw Street, between Pratt and Lombard streets.

Their analysis showed “evidence of abnormal pipe wall thinning” at the origin of the steam line break.

“We have replaced the existing cast iron pipe with ductile carbon steel, and believe this will provide appropriate protection against thinning,” the Veolia statement read. “This was an extremely rare and isolated event.”

The steam pipe explosion took place just an hour before an Orioles game was scheduled to start. Five people suffered minor injuries after chunks of Eutaw Street were blasted into the air. The incident also damaged 33 cars and blew asbestos onto the side of a nearby building. Asbestos, which is known to cause cancer if inhaled, was used to wrap the underground pipes, which carry steam throughout downtown.

“Safety is, without question, the highest priority at Veolia,” according to the Veolia statement. “We fully believe that the system is safe, and we are committed to using best practices to maintain its safety.”

Company officials were not immediately available for further comment Wednesday evening.

trichman@baltsun.com

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