National Grid ordered to halt all non-emergency work

WOBURN, Mass. — The Department of Public Utilities has issued a moratorium on all National Grid work, with the exception of emergency and compliance work.

In a release, the Communications Director for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Peter Lorenz, said:

"Following today's incident in Woburn, the Department of Public Utilities, under its regulatory authority over the gas distribution system, ordered National Grid to impose a moratorium on all work, except for emergency and compliance work, across the company's entire service territory pending the results of DPU's review of National Grid's safety practices. In addition, the Department is requiring National Grid to have an inspector on location for all work that could lead to abnormal pressurization until this review is complete.  Separately, the Department is in the process of hiring an independent evaluator to assess, out of an abundance of caution, the safety of pipeline infrastructure throughout Massachusetts."

As part of the order issued from the DPU, National Grid is required to provide the department with information regarding their staffing, costs and services the company has provided during the company's current labor lockout compared to the same period in previous years.

The DPU launched an investigation last week into safety violations and possible failures to follow procedures and federal pipeline safety regulations. The company is also required to provide additional information by Nov. 13.

Out of abundance of caution, the DPU will hire an independent evaluator to conduct a statewide examination of the safety of the natural gas distribution system within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

National Grid said the gas issues in Woburn on Monday were caused by an over-pressurization of the gas lines.

An over-pressurization of gas lines is what investigators say led to the explosions and fires in Lawrence and North Andover just a month ago.

There were no problems immediately reported due to the over-pressurization in Woburn, but workers have been on alert since the catastrophe that killed a teen in Lawrence.

National Grid said a technician accidentally introduced excess gas into a portion of its system while doing regular maintenance at a regulator station at Wyman and Hart streets.

There were no evacuations ordered in the area.

Later on Monday, the company said residents should expect to have their gas restored by Thursday, two days longer than the original timeline given.

MORE: Woburn residents not expected to have gas restored until Thursday