N. Andover resident shocked by large Columbia Gas bill months after disaster

N. Andover resident shocked by large Columbia Gas bill months after disaster

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — With gas service now completely restored in the Merrimack Valley, Columbia Gas customers are getting their first bills since the disaster in mid-September.

On the afternoon of Sept. 13, 2018, Paul Craney and his wife left their North Andover home when they realized fires and explosions were popping up, consuming homes all around them.

"I basically had the shirt on my back, some documents, our pets, and that was it," said Craney.

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They came back two days later to find they were among the luckier ones in the aftermath of the Merrimack Valley gas disaster. Their home was unscathed and their gas service was restored just a few days later. They didn't hear or receive anything from Columbia Gas in the months that followed, including their monthly bills.

But on the last day of 2018, one showed up for more than $820. Columbia Gas suspended their billing during the recovery period and just restarted the cycle once they finished restoring service last month.

"The bill hit NYE from the time of the explosions, so it was retroactive. And I hadn't heard anything from Columbia," said Craney.

Paul lives in the area right off the North Andover Town Common. He reached out to several of his neighbors after he got his bill and many of them said they also got their first bills in months this week and were shocked at the price.

"It's a lot of money, it's a big hit," said Craney.

A spokesperson for Columbia Gas tells Boston 25 News customers set up a payment plan and that no one was charged for the time they were without gas. Customers were also credited if their service was turned off for at least one day in a billing cycle and Craney's bill shows he was credited in full for the month of September. He says his issue isn't with the money they're asking for, but the lack of communication.

"That's what I would have appreciated. A letter saying we are not gonna bill you for a few months, plan accordingly. But they never did that," said Craney.