New York City

Facts and Figures: Con Edison's Underground Steam Pipe System

A pipe explosion in the Flatiron District shut down a heavy traffic and tourist area during Thursday's morning rush hour. And it may stay that way for days.

The sudden explosion sent thick steam billowing over Manhattan and left a gaping hole in the middle of the street.

The asbestos-lined 86-year-old steam pipe forced the evacuation of more than four dozen buildings amid "real concern" carcinogenic debris thrown stories high by the rupture could have gotten into people's buildings or air conditioners, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The blast came almost exactly 11 years to the day of another Manhattan steam pipe blast.

[NATL-NY] Dramatic Images: Steam Pipe Explodes, Buries Part of Midtown in Cloud

Here are a few basic facts about the Con Edison steam pipe system found underneath the streets of New York City:

  • Con Edison’s steam travels under the streets of Manhattan from the Battery to 96th Street on the West Side and from downtown to 89th Street on the East Side. 
  • Con Edison has about 1,600 steam customers, which are all in Manhattan. Steam is mainly used for heat, cooling and hot water. Also, some of the hospitals use it for sterilization of equipment. 
  • Con Edison uses two stations that generate steam and electricity and four steam-only stations. 
  • Con Edison's steam customers tend to be large – Grand Central Terminal, the United Nations, the Empire State Building to name a few.
  • The steam is distributed to customers through 104 miles of transmission, distribution and service piping.
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