An ominous theme has emerged from the wreckage of a deadly pipeline Explosion in California: There are thousands of pipes just like it nationwide. The pipe was more than 50 years old — right around the life expectancy for steel pipes. It was part of a transmission line that had an “unacceptably high” risk of failure. And it was in a densely populated area. Thousands of pipelines nationwide fit the same bill, and they frequently experience mishaps. Federal officials have recorded 2,840 significant gas pipeline accidents since 1990, more than a third causing deaths and significant injuries. Utilities have been under pressure for years to better inspect and replace aging gas pipes many of them laid years before the suburbs expanded over them and now are at risk of leaking or erupting. But the effort has fallen short. Critics said the regulatory system is ripe for problems because the government leaves it up to the companies to do inspections, and utilities are reluctant to spend the money necessary to properly fix and replace decrepit pipelines. The investigation into last week’s San Bruno gas pipeline explosion is now focused on work that was performed on a sewer near the ruptured line back in 2008. According to the Los Angeles Times, the method used by the city to replace the sewer line is known to pose risks to nearby pipes. The explosion, which occurred last Thursday around 6:00 p.m. local time, shot a fireball more than 1,000 feet in the air, and sent fire tearing across several blocks. According to a CNN report, the blast sent concrete flying, and the heat from the flames melted tail lights on cars blocks away from the blaze. The blast killed at least four people, and three others are missing and presumed dead. About 60 people were injured. Fifty-six homes were either severely damaged or destroyed. The fire damage was estimated at $65 million.

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