Durham Woods

Edison, New Jersey
Class IV - Distress Condition, Gas Pipeline Explosion

On March 23, 1994, an underground methane gas pipeline, measuring 36 inches in diameter, exploded. The pipeline was operated by Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. and was last inspected in 1986. The explosion created a crater 60 feet deep and sent a 300-foot fireball into the air that could be seen by residents of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Homes in a 10-mile radius shook, and the event was likened by many to a nuclear disaster. It took workers two and one-half hours to turn off the gas flow. 1,500 tenants were forced to flee their homes; the Red Cross intervened and the area was declared a Federal Disaster Area. The disaster prompted new federal legislation regarding pipeline operations. Due to the tragedy occurring near midnight, there was only one related death (a heart attack suffered by a fleeing person); the remaining victims successfully escaped.

The complex contains 63 buildings, of which eight (containing 128 units) were completely destroyed. A total of 500 units were damaged. Insurance proceeds paid for the reconstruction of the damaged and destroyed units at a cost of $12 million. The apartment building owners eventually were able to re-lease the rebuilt units. An adjoining condominium development, called Talmadge Village, was in the approved planning stages at the time of the disaster. As it is generally much easier to rent properties associated with tragedies as opposed to selling them, the development was converted to an apartment complex in order to keep the project progressing.