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Consumers Energy to work on Royal Oak's Cooper Avenue in June

May 6, 2013

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Wooden barriers block pedestrian access to where work on the Cooper Avenue gas main was never completed after a house explosion on the block killed a man in February.

ROYAL OAK — More than two months after a house explosion killed one man, Consumers Energy announced last week that it will recommence in early June the gas-main replacement job that led to the fatal accident.

Daniel R. Malczynski, 58, was killed Feb. 27 when his house exploded due to a gas leak created by a crew working on an underground main along the 4000 block of Cooper Avenue.

Consumers Energy released a preliminary report in April that detailed missteps prior to the explosion, including the fact that the company’s crew waited 27 minutes after smelling gas before notifying proper authorities of a possible leak.

Since the explosion, the neighborhood is a land of orange cones and wooden barriers. Yellow, plastic tubes snake in and out of people’s front yards. And a memorial made up of flowers in a vase sits in front of Malczynski’s destroyed home.

Debra Dodd, a spokeswoman for Consumers Energy, said the company had been waiting for clearance from the city to recommence work.

“I think the main thing is that we will be going through that area in early June and installing the new main,” Dodd said. “We’ll have plenty of oversight for this job.”

Dodd said a completely new plastic main will be replacing the one that the Consumers Energy crew had been installing when they caused the gas leak. After work on the main is complete, Consumers Energy will then hire a landscaping company to ensure that the right-of-way, which is the grassy portion between the sidewalk and the curb, is graded and seeded, she said.

City Manager Don Johnson said, because the work will be done in the public right-of-way, the city will ensure that Consumers Energy follows through with the repairs and cleanup.

Meanwhile, Cooper Avenue resident Nancy Lewis has refused to stay overnight in her home since the incident.

Lewis was not home when the explosion occurred, but she expressed an overall distrust in Consumers Energy and its employees to do the job right.

“I’m scared to go back there,” she said in a phone interview from her boyfriend’s home. “I am frightened. I’m terrified. It could have been any of us. (The construction work) started with us first, because I’m closer toward Normandy.”

She’s been living with her boyfriend, John Eisele, who lives about three miles from the explosion site.

“Why do these people have to live like this?” Eisele said.

Lewis said residents of the block don’t even want to be home when the energy company resumes work.

“Everybody’s holding their breath because they don’t want to be there when they finish the work,” she said.

Dodd said she plans to write a letter to residents of Cooper Avenue that will explain the work that will be done, and she also will provide a number for residents to call if there are any questions or fears. While she was not able to verify exactly when, Dodd expected the letter to be delivered this week.

As for the Malczynski house, Johnson said the city’s Building Department has received bids for both demolition and construction from several companies but wasn’t sure how quickly both would happen.

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