BOSTON — A push to convert lamps in the oldest historic district in Massachusetts from gas to electric is lighting up a conversation on Beacon Hill.
The city of Boston has allocated $400,000 for a pilot project to try out the switch on Temple Street after a petition signed by 32 neighbors there.
Ania Camargo, a longtime resident of Temple Street who started the petition, told Boston 25 News that the gas lamps are killing the trees on her block.
She said the methane that fuels the 16 gas lamps on Temple Street is seeping into the soil from underground pipes.
“Of the 16 original trees, there are only five left, and all of them are sick and dying,” said Ania Camargo. “The soil we’ve measured has elevated methane levels, so we know they are dying from gas leaks.”
A National Grid spokesperson told Boston 25 News that crews have repaired dozens of leaks in the Temple Street area over the past several years.
According to National Grid, there’s a plan in place to replace the gas main and services in the area.
Camargo does not believe that will fix the issue involving the trees. She’s convinced the issue stems from small leaks in the pipes that connect to the gas lamps.
“We want to keep the same look of the lamps. We just want to change the energy source,” explained Camargo. “These lights run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”
Not everyone in the Beacon Hill neighborhood is convinced that a change is necessary.
“One of our concerns is the historic fabric of Beacon Hill has involved gas lights for at least 60 to 70 years if not longer,” said Rob Whitney, Chair of Beacon Hill Civic Association.
Rob Whitney said he’s reached out to the city and National Grid to find, isolate and remediate any leaking gas issues.
However, Whitney said the removal of any gas lights is a separate conversation that the entire community should be involved in.
“We want to have a discussion with the residents and the city to talk about what effect it would have on the lifestyle on Beacon Hill,” explained Whitney. “To lose one of the last little pieces of the historic fabric of our city.”
Camargo argues that the lights on Temple Street are not antique.
“These lamps are from 1977. These are not the original lamps from the 1800s,” she added. “I think people also care about the trees too, and electricity doesn’t kill trees.”
There are currently a total of 2,800 remaining gas lamps in Boston, and most of those are in Beacon Hill.
Boston’s Superintendent of Street Lighting estimates that the 2,800 lights cost the city at least $200,000 annually for maintenance and at least $1 million annually for gas.
The city’s pilot program intends to study what it would take to switch the city’s gas lights to LEDs.
A city spokesperson released the following statement to Boston 25 News:
“The City of Boston allocated $400,000 for a design build study to gauge the feasibility of converting gas colonial fixtures to electrified colonial fixtures. The Public Works Street Lighting Division is currently in the exploratory phase to locate ideal locations that would maintain the character of the existing lights while also reducing overall maintenance costs and improving the carbon footprint. The City will continue to explore possible neighborhoods that could benefit from this conversion, which includes Temple Street on Beacon Hill after neighbors signed a petition expressing their strong interest in converting the existing gas fixtures.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.