LAWRENCE, Mass. - Governor Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency in the Merrimack Valley after natural gas explosions and fires ripped through three communities Thursday.
On Friday afternoon, Baker announced that Columbia Gas is being removed and Eversource is now in charge of the recovery.
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A note for @ColumbiaGasMA gas customers in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence: If you turned off your own gas, please call 1-866-388-3239. We will place you in line for restoration once the distribution system has been repaired and can safely be placed back into service. https://t.co/l1XpEqrfsz— Eversource MA (@EversourceMA) September 15, 2018
Residents and local authorities have been angrily wondering why Columbia Gas has been silent throughout the devastation in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover. On Friday, Columbia Gas sent three representatives into those communities, but they were short on answers.
A representative from Columbia Gas met (briefly) with residents in North Andover this morning. While there, a frustrated resident yelled out.— Boston 25 News (@boston25) September 14, 2018
"You keep walking away from us, but we cannot walk away from this problem!" https://t.co/IN2aC4RznU pic.twitter.com/MRtIVqTjmF
After taking everyone's contact information, the team made a quick exit.
As for Eversource, the following statement was released after Gov. Baker's announcement:
Our hearts go out to our neighbors and everyone affected by this tragic event and we are thankful for the first responders. We are sending gas crews and equipment to support those communities and Columbia Gas - including 133 people, two emergency communications trailers and a mobile command unit. Our top priority is the safety of the public, our customers and our employees, and while we are sending support teams, we continue to retain the resources we need to serve our customers.
Our systems are not connected to the Columbia Gas system and continue to operate safely. We have a comprehensive maintenance and inspection program, and we have an effective leak management program that exceeds the requirements of federal and state pipeline safety regulations. We also conducted a safety stand down this morning with all of our gas crews to reinforce our commitment to safety and our gas operating procedures that enable safe operation, and we are always evaluating new procedures, technologies and industry best practices to perform at the top standards for the industry.
Eversource urges all natural gas customers to review and follow these important safety tips:
• Be aware that some natural gas heating systems may be impacted in the event of a power interruption. All customers should be prepared in case they lose their heating source
• Keep natural gas meters, all gas appliances and outdoor vents clear to maintain safe operation and access
• Install carbon monoxide detectors and check the batteries routinely
• Do not use a gas stove as a heating source – only use approved heating sources
• If you smell a gas odor in any home or business, move to a safe location and call 9-1-1 immediately
Columbia Gas president Steve Bryant finally made an appearance Friday afternoon but avoided questions about potential causes of the explosions and fires.
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