Aging Pipelines the Root Cause of Andover, Lawrence Gas Explosions?

Multiple natural gas explosions killed a teenager, injured more than two dozen, and set 39 homes ablaze in three Boston-area towns last week. Entire neighborhoods evacuated their homes as officials scrambled to prevent more explosions from occurring. State police urged residents served by Columbia Gas in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence to leave their homes at once.

“It looked like Armageddon, it really did,” said Andover Fire Chief, Michael Mansfield. “There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover.”

A Lawrence man was killed when the chimney of an exploding house landed on his car. Leonel Rondon, 18, was pronounced dead at a Boston hospital that evening.

Approximately 8,600 Columbia gas customers are affected by the gas leak.

The utility company issued a statement early Friday morning, announcing that its crews will visit each and every one of the 8,600 customers to turn off gas meters and perform safety inspections.

”Additional support is being provided by crews from several affiliated Columbia Gas companies and other utilities. We expect this will be an extended restoration effort, and we will work tirelessly to restore service to the affected customers.”

Gov. Charlie Baker said it could be weeks or months before the investigation turns up any answers.

“This is still very much an active scene,” said Baker. “There will be plenty of time later tonight, tomorrow morning and into the next day to do some of the work around determining exactly what happened and why.” A MA personal injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another.

What Caused the Explosions?

According to Andover Police Department Lieutenant Eddie Guy, officials think over-pressurized gas lines caused the fatal blasts.

Since 2010, Columbia Gas has had to pay $100,000 due to seven violations, including improper pressure testing, inadequate gas standards, and failure to follow procedures and federal safety regulations for pipelines.

Aging Pipelines

Apparently, Columbia Gas knew about the problems with its gas lines for quite some time. The company filed a petition with the Department of Public Utilities in April to request help with aging infrastructure. The three towns involved in Thursday’s explosions were all mentioned in the April petition.

“Replacing leak-prone infrastructure is a leading priority,” wrote the utility in April. “However, it will take a number of years to eliminate the aging pipe from the gas distribution system.”

Dan Rivera, Lawrence’s Mayor, had harsh words for Columbia Gas in a news conference last week, saying the utility company was “last to act.” He went on to say that he believed the delayed response was because the company didn’t want to “foot the bill.”

But Steve Bryant, president of NiSource’s Columbia Gas unit, rejected any accusations that the company failed to respond quickly.

“There’s no one else who could have acted on this more rapidly than we did,” said Bryant.

Massachusetts isn’t the only state to experience NiSource explosions. Since 2007, the company has had a minimum of five pipeline explosions, in Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

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