Mayor Pawlowski speaks at press conference about the February 2011 gas explosion.

Mayor Pawlowski speaks at press conference about the February 2011 gas explosion.

On January 16th, the City of Allentown was awarded a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for technical and other assistance relating to pipeline safety issues. The money comes from the Technical Assistance Grants program authorized under the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety Act of 2006.

The grant will allow for research and development of a “National Mayor’s Task Force on Pipeline Safety” (MCPS) which was initiated by Mayor Pawlowski in order to collaborate with other Mayors around the country about pipeline safety initiatives and concerns specific to cities like Allentown.  Pawlowski spoke about the task force before the US Conference of Mayor’s Transportation Committee at the US Conference of Mayors 81st Winter Meeting on January 17 in Washington, DC.

His first contact was with Mayor Jim Ruane, the Mayor of San Bruno, California through the US Conference of Mayors.  A September 2010 pipeline explosion and fire in San Bruno killed eight people, destroyed 38 homes, and badly damaged 70 more.  A February 2011 natural gas explosion in Allentown killed five people and destroyed eight homes.

“The foundation of a task force is the assurance of open communications with cities throughout the country,” said Pawlowski.  “Implicit is the desire to bring local officials, pipeline operators and utility companies to the table for the united purpose of enhancing safety and shared resources.”

The grant will also be used to purchase four multi-gas surveyors for the Allentown Fire Department which can detect gas and oil leaks when responding to fires and other emergencies.

“The gas surveyors give us the best possible detection capabilities to enable first responders to get a quick reading and possible location of a leak,” said Allentown Fire Chief Bob Scheirer.  “The faster we locate a leak, the faster we can evacuate citizens to a safe area, the faster we locate a leak, the faster we can mitigate the risk of an explosion.”

A portion of the grant will also be used to promote public participation in official proceedings regarding pipeline safety issues.

“We are creating this project to form a union of cities and to thereby facilitate shared education, ideas, conceptualizations and technology,” concluded the Mayor.