Massachusetts Homes Safe to Return to After Gas Explosions, Governor Says

Columbia Gas Just Released A Statement To The Public		
		by qcwriter

Columbia Gas Just Released A Statement To The Public by qcwriter

Residents of three areas hit by a series of fires and gas explosions north of Boston in MA have started to return home, officials say.

MBTA buses are being used to drive people to their homes.

A new natural gas leak was reported in Lawrence, Mass., on Saturday morning, two days after explosions and fires rocked the city and other towns north of Boston.

Utility workers accessed 8,600 meters, turned them off and cleared each home of gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover as of 6:30 a.m. Sunday, the governor said.

The NTSB, which is investigating because transportation - in this case, of natural gas - was involved, arrived in Massachusetts Friday morning to investigate the fires and gas explosions and will also be looking into the system procedures, operations, and safety culture of Columbia Gas and its parent company NiSource, as well as constructing a timeline of events surrounding the fires.

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Gas utility representatives are going door to door to shut off meters and check for residual gas within the home.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate a pressure increase detected in a natural gas pipeline north of Boston as it tries to figure out what caused a series of fires and gas explosions in three MA towns, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Saturday at a news conference.

"We all express our honest regret and commitment to restoring lives in the Merrimack Valley in the days and weeks ahead", Hamrock said. "It makes us very thankful".

They said some residents in Lawrence and Andover have received calls from individuals falsely claiming they're collecting donations on behalf of a local firefighters' association for the disaster.

Jeff Hall, spokesman for the Red Cross, said Friday there were nearly 400 people shelters after the Thursday night explosions and fires.

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency on Friday and authorized an another utility company, Eversource Energy, "to take management control over the coordinated effort to safely restore utility services". Baker said New England-based Eversource would replace Columbia Gas of MA.

Joe Hamrock, the CEO of NiSource, said "it's heartbreaking to see this devastation and this tragedy". A chimney fell onto the vehicle, they said, when the home, on Chickering Road, exploded. The remaining displaced residents, which officials say are in the thousands, likely stayed with friends and family, Red Cross spokesman Jeff Hall said.

NiSource was working with investigators and taking "full responsibility" for the findings of the safety board's investigation, the company's chief executive, Joe Hamrock, said at a news conference Sunday.

Gas service is not being restored at this time.

Columbia Gas is owned by NiSource, which serves almost 4 million natural gas and 500,000 electric customers across seven states.

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