A state regulator says that a steam valve was not working prior to the July 18 steam pipe explosion in Midtown. The Daily News reports that in 2006, a "steam trap" type of valve was installed, but some recent post-explosion tests showed it wasn't working. The valve is "supposed to drain water out of the steampipe to prevent a catastrophic condition called 'water hammer,' which causes water to slam into itself with incredible pressure." A state engineer said that testing of the steam trap was inconclusive and that it should be cut open for further examination (to see if there was debris buildup).

Now, Con Ed wants to cut the trap and will let lawyers for people suing the utility over the blast to watch, but some think that's a bad idea. Ken Thompson, a lawyer for the family of Gregory McCullough, the man who was most critically injured by the explosion, has demanded that an independent monitor be appointed to oversee the investigation, explaining that Con Ed or the Public Service Commission can not be trusted. He is asking for a "neutral, third party uninvolved in the case."

McCullough, who was in his tow truck during the explosion, has been in the hospital after suffering third-degree burns over 80% of his body since the explosion, may lose an arm and a leg. His mother said, "He's in pain. He does cry. This is devastating. No family should have to go through this."

Other people suing the utility include McCullough's passenger Judith Bailey (who suffered burns to 30% of her body), a woman who says the explosion reminded her of September 11, a Midtown dentist who says he lost business and Junior Suarez, the man who helped McCullough after the explosion (Suarez says he's traumatized now).

Photograph of the red tow truck by sidewalk_story on Flickr