Allentown has received a second federal grant to help with pipeline safety issues.
The nearly $44,000 grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. A $50,000 grant was awarded to the city earlier this year.
"It allows us to continue our efforts to build a mayors coalition for pipeline safety," said Mayor Ed Pawlowski, D-Allentown, who is part of the National Mayors Coalition for Pipeline Safety. "I don't want any community to suffer what Allentown suffered a few years ago."
UGI faced several safety violations related to a 2011 gas explosion in Allentown that killed five people and destroyed a row of homes. The source of the gas leak was a crack in a more than 80-year-old cast iron main.
69 News checked in with UGI on Tuesday as crews were working to update the city's pipeline system.
"We are replacing an older cast iron main with new, high density plastic. It's part of our overall infrastructure improvement program," explained Joseph Swope, a spokesman for Reading-based UGI. "UGI has committed over $1.2 billion over the next 30 years to replace all the cast iron and bare steel in our system with newer, safer, more contemporary materials."
All of the cast iron in the system, however, will be replaced in 14 years, he said.
Swope also said UGI replaced about eight miles of gas main in Allentown last year and is scheduled to replace about 10 miles this year.
"We're in the process of getting all that material out to get as contemporary, as safe and as reliable a system as we possibly can," said Swope. "Safety is the first priority at UGI."
"It's a lot of work. It's a lot of manpower. It's a lot of commitment to replace the main. You're talking about somewhere between half-million and a million dollars a mile, but we've made that commitment and we're on pace to keep that schedule," said Swope.
Through the mayors coalition and with help from the grants, Pawlowski said he wants to educate other communities and officials about pipeline safety.
"For many municipalities and for many mayors across the country, it's out of sight and out of mind until a disaster happens, and what we're trying to do is really bring awareness before it becomes a problem," said Pawlowski. "As a result of our initial efforts, we were able to get the Federal Pipeline Safety Act signed into law last year."