In the case of gas the evils of main leakage are many and serious. The least of these is the economic waste which must be paid for by charging it to consumption.

It enormously increases the fire hazard.

It is attended with an indeterminate danger to the public health.

It puts life in jeopardy from frequent street and sewer explosions.

It involves the constant destruction of unreplaceable pavements for main repairs which, if neglected, would quickly render the city uninhabitable.

Of the fire hazard of gas leakage, Circular No. 559 of the National Board of Fire Underwriters says:

"Facts concerning the leakage of illuminating gas in distribution, lately brought to the attention of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, in connection with fires occurring in New York and other cities, show the importance of a thorough investigation, from the insurance standpoint, of the relation between the spread of asphalt and other impervious pavements, and the fire risks in buildings fronting on streets and avenues thus paved. The occurrence in New York during the past year of a number of fires and explosions which, studied in the light of facts before this committee, may be assumed to be due to the leakage of gas mains under impervious pavements, warrants the belief that the attention of fire underwriters should everywhere be directed to this important subject, to the end that it may be investigated under all conditions and from widely separated points of view."

"This statement is accompanied by a startling array of facts and figures which, from any less authoritative source, would seem in the highest degree sensational."

"Of the health risk of gas leakage, especially in the case of water gas, the data at hand is still incomplete. It has, however, been taken up for clinical study by the New York County Medical Association and data already collected by members of its Committee on Hygiene, in looking for gas and finding it in dangerous quantities in the homes of persons suffering from persistent sickness resembling malaria but not responding to other treatment than a change of residence, indicate that illuminating gas in sewers and in the air of dwellings accounts for much of the sickness and no small part of the mortality peculiar to cities, and especially for the prevalence of anaemic conditions among the occupants of inferior and badly plumbed houses."

"Carbon monoxide absorbed from the air by the lungs, enters into chemical combination with the haemoglobin of the blood, which has for it an affinity about four hundred times greater than for oxygen. When about 70 per cent of saturation is reached death ensues inevitably. Distressing and often dangerous symptoms, especially in the case of persons with defective heart action, are noted at about one-third of saturation. Dr. John Haldane, Professor of Physiology, Oxford University, says:"

"Carbonic oxide or carbon monoxide (CO) is a very poisonous gas. Judging from experiments on animals, air containing anything more than 0.4 per cent would, after a sufficient time, always cause death in a man though anything over 0.2 per cent would in many cases prove fatal."

"I deem it safe to affirm that illuminating gas is the worst and perhaps the only generally dangerous element of so-called 'sewer gas.' Through house drains it works into houses, and from defects in waste pipe it escapes into living and sleeping rooms. CO may almost always be detected in connection with defective plumbing, the danger of which it enormously increases.

"Gas which has escaped from underground leaks does not usually carry any odor with it. Filtration through earth, even for a short distance, makes it odorless from the removal of the added illuminants. This quality greatly increases its danger. I am of the opinion that if gas is not distributed with a very much smaller leakage loss than is now considered consistent with good average practice, the time is not far distant when the suppression of the gas industry in cities, as an intolerable public nuisance, will become a necessity."


(Sig.) James C. Bayles, M. E., Ph. D.

"Main Leakage a Menace to Public Safety and Health.

Leakage from water mains greatly increases the difficulty of maintaining at times of fire sufficient pressures. When it is considered that the rate of fire consumption in percentage of average, when average equals 100 gallons per day, is for a town of 1,000 inhabitants 1,000 per cent, for a town of 5,000 inhabitants 450 per cent, and a city of 50,000 inhabitants 140 per cent, whilst even in cities of 100,000 as much supply is demanded in time of fire as the requirements of the city itself, it can be readily understood how serious the conditions are arising from defective distributing systems. Take for instance the very recent fire at the Parker Building in New York, where several lives were lost and much property destroyed because of the inability to obtain sufficient pressure to even supply the fire engines. This is not an unusual example, and in fact almost innumerable similar cases could be cited.

I quote the following from the circular on the Universal pipe joint of the Central Foundry Company:

Mr. Dexter Bracket, Engineer of the Distribution Department of the Metropolitan Water Works, in a Report on the Measurement, Consumption and Waste of Water to the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board, gives the following table of water waste:

Leakage Of Pipes And Joints 558

Fig. 520.

With the extension of the use of water gas, which is much less easily detected by odor than the illuminating gas from retorts, the subtle dangers to health have been greatly increased.

A New York county medical association has taken this matter up and information already collected points to the fact that many persons suffering from persistent sickness resembling malaria do not respond to any other treatment than changing their abode, thus indicating that illuminating gas reaching dwellings through services and sewers, poisons the air and is responsible for much of the sickness and no small part of the mortality peculiar to cities.

The catastrophies which constantly occur in large cities through gas explosions are so frequently a matter of news in the daily papers as to make unnecessary further mention of them here, whilst the breaking down through street excavations of the concrete crown of roads and pavements, thus irreparably damaging them, is only too constantly a matter of daily observation of all citizens. The destruction of trees and grass by the leakage of gas into the ground is also well known.