Small particulate matter emissions from heating oil boilers in New York City. Some of the worst of these polluters are operating past their planned retirement dates.
Flickr Photo: Carbon Visuals

Out-of-date Heating Oil Boilers Putting Some New Yorkers in Danger

by Brett Dahlberg
Dec. 14, 2016

Many heating oil boilers in New York City continue to operate well past their anticipated retirement age, despite a city law passed in 2011 designed to phase out the oldest boilers and most noxious forms of heating oil by 2015. The last boilers burning No. 6 oil, which the city designated a health hazard, were converted to burn cleaner oil, but old boilers still remain in service.

The New York City Department of Buildings sets 35 years as the expected useful life of a heating oil boiler. While that age is not codified in any law, it is generally accepted in the industry as an age beyond which boilers "start to deteriorate" and pose increased safety hazards, said an employee at Rockmills Steel Products Corp., which has manufactured some of New York City's oldest operational heating oil boilers. The employee declined to be identified, citing company policy, but said that the people who know how to maintain New York City's oldest boilers no longer work at the company.

Analysis of city data shows that the out-of-date boilers are not evenly distributed through the boroughs. As the map below shows, some community districts, which are the city's units of local government, have no boilers operating beyond their expected retirement age, while others in Manhattan have more than 60.

New York City's oldest operating heating oil boiler is a Kewanee 420, manufactured by the Kewanee Boiler Corporation in 1951 and installed at 335 37th St. in Midtown Manhattan, according to the city's most recent data. The Kewanee Boiler Corporation went out of business in 2002.

City data from NYC Clean Heat, revised for mapping here.