Aging Pipelines Under Neighborhoods Could Cause Problems

Last week

A fire fighting helicopter flys over a massive fire, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 in a neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif. A local fire chief says a gas line explosion caused the massive fire burning homes in a residential neighborhood south of San Francisco. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

Last week's explosion of a gas pipeline in a San Francisco suburb has shed light on a situation that experts say exists in many communities across the country.

The section of pipeline that ruptured in San Bruno was built in 1956, when the neighborhood contained just a handful of homes. Since then, an expanded community has been built above that pipeline.

The vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Christopher Hart, says it's an issue that's going to have to be addressed elsewhere: aging pipelines that have been in place since before dense populations arrived. He's hoping other states will see the San Bruno tragedy as a wake-up call.

Although utilities have been under pressure to inspect and replace aging gas pipes, critics say the government has largely left it to the companies to do the inspections, and the companies aren't willing to spend the money to fix and replace the pipelines.

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