Merrimack Valley gas disaster investigation on hold due to government shutdown

Merrimack Valley gas disaster investigation on hold due to government shutdown

WASHINGTON — The federal investigation into the September 13, 2018 Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions and fires has been put on hold due to the recent government shutdown.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had been investigating the disaster that killed an 18-year-old man, injured more than two dozen and damaged more than 100 structures. Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) announced Thursday that the investigation had to be placed on hold due to a lapse in funding for transportation and housing agencies.

>> Timeline of events during Merrimack Valley gas explosions

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"The unnecessary Trump shutdown is shutting down justice for the residents of the Merrimack Valley impacted by the Columbia Gas disaster. We need to fund government and provide the NTSB the resources it needs to complete its investigation and compile a comprehensive account of the safety lapses that led to the deadly disaster in Merrimack Valley. Without the results of this investigation, the people of this community cannot hope to move forward. The residents of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover have already had to wait too long for answers; they should not have to wait any longer.
"In light of this ongoing delay from the shutdown, Columbia Gas and NiSource must be even more diligent in preserving all the information that federal investigators might need in completing its investigation."
– Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.)

The funding lapse for part of the federal government began on December 22, 2018, with President Donald Trump citing the lack of funding for the Mexican border as the reason behind it.

Gas in the Merrimack Valley was just recently restored by Columbia Gas, a month-and-a-half after the company's initial self-imposed restoration deadline.