Local NatGas Pipes Explode Near Boston Killing 1, Injuring 25

You don’t often think of the safety of the pipeline network that delivers natural gas to your home or business because it’s so rare there are any problems with it. When’s the last time you heard about a local delivery pipeline exploding? Last Thursday a major incident occurred 25 miles northwest of Boston when delivery pipelines owned by Columbia Gas (NiSource) in three communities–Andover, North Andover and Lawrence–exploded and caught fire at “more than 60 locations.” The explosions and resulting fires tragically killed one teenager and injured some 25 others. Local officials ordered over 8,000 residents and businesses in the three communities to evacuate, turning off electric and gas. Each house and business was then tested before turning electricity back on (gas is still off). Residents were finally able to return to their homes on Sunday. It’s a huge incident, a big, fat, stinking mess. Folks waited in lines for hours at claims centers to file requests for reimbursement for hotels and expenses after being displaced from their homes–only to have the claims centers close because Columbia couldn’t handle the numbers. On Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in the three communities. Later in the day on Friday, he invoked a little-used (and little-known) provision in the state constitution that allowed him to take management of the crisis away from Columbia/NiSource, giving management of the crisis to a competitor, Eversource. Although it’s still early in the investigation process, the cause of the explosions appears to be a combination of old/decaying pipes with too much pressure flowing through them. Attention has turned to pressure sensors along the pipelines. Yesterday Columbia/NiSource announced it will replace all 48 miles of the cast iron and bare steel pipeline system in that area. Meanwhile, the affected 8,000+ residents and businesses will not have gas service restored “for weeks” at a minimum…

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