Lawrence Gas Emergency
STATEMENT OF MAYOR DAN RIVERA IN FRONT OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION
Pipeline Safety in the MV: Incident Prevention & Response Field Hearing November 26, 2018, Lawrence, MA
Good morning Senators, invited guests and fellow affected citizens. I want to begin by thanking Senator Markey for advocating on behalf of our communities to bring this hearing to Lawrence. It allows all those affected to be present and included throughout the investigation process. The gas fires and explosions of September 13th, 2018 and the days that followed was both a human tragedy and a human disaster. That tragedy continues despite the best efforts of Columbia Gas and the recovery effort. I never thought that I would have to ask people in my community and those in surrounding communities to evacuate the city, fearing for their lives. Asking them to abandon their homes, their businesses and their neighborhoods because no one knew if it was safe for them to be there; others evacuated out of sheer panic. We had to cut the power to every domicile and business in South Lawrence, Andover and North Andover in the middle of the night. What followed the devastations of the fires and explosions was loss of life, grave, unbearable injury to people, priceless loss to property and the regional economy, loss of business and jobs. But worst of all we lost the underlying security that the very thing most of us relied on to keep ourselves and our families warm in the coldest of New England winters could destroy our homes, our neighborhoods, our towns and city, our very peace. We expected that the gas services that we pay good money for every month, that many families sacrifice to make those monthly payments and that business owners based the core of their business and their livelihood on, would not put us in grave danger, but that is exactly what happened.
During the heart of the disaster Columbia gas was the least informed and last to act. It is Important to know that while we were trying to save lives and make heads or tails of the tragedy and disaster of those days Columbia gas was failing to manage the disaster, in the same way that they had failed to maintain their gas lines. I beat most of the upper echelon leadership to the scene after driving in Thursday night traffic from Boston. It was clear that the Columbia Gas engineers and Columbia Gas Massachusetts top leadership were afraid and lacked a clear path to deal with the disaster. They owned the pipe, owned the gas in the pipe, they owned the customer relationships, yet they failed to own this disaster. So much so that Governor Baker had to call for a state of emergency and put a different utility company in charge. We lost critical hours that first weekend, getting people back in their homes because they refused to call for mutual aid motivated by what appeared to many to be an unwillingness to bear the cost of that mutual aid. One person is dead, many injured the core of three communities has been shaken. It appeared to many of us that Columbia Gas did not have an actual plan for dealing with a disaster of this magnitude; as if it never crossed their minds that this could occur. It should be mandated across utilities (not just natural gas) for there to be a system failure and customer evacuation plan created and refreshed every 2 years. People have plans to get out of their homes in case of a fire. Utilities to should have a basic plan if they set your city or town on fire.
It is cold outside today and there is snow on the ground. People in our communities are still without heat and hot water. Some people are still in hotel rooms and RVs. Some are still cooking on hotplates. And most of the people in the affected area, regardless if they were lit before Thanksgiving or not, did not have the Thanksgiving they wanted to due to this disaster. The recovery is a material effort; fixing things and systems so that life can happen, in that sense the recovery is an awful experience only made better every day for some who get their gas turned back on.
Thanks to Governor Baker we have Chief Recovery Officer, Joe Albanese, leading the recovery effort. A twenty-eight-year veteran and former Captain in the United States Navy Civil Engineer Corps. We are honored to have Joe leading our restoration efforts and he enjoys our full support and appreciation for walking away from his business to work on this recovery. Every day he has done all he could to get Columbia Gas to live up to their responsibility and get the work done. As I have lived it, the recovery has really been about 4 things 1. Fixing the pipe in the Street and to the House to get gas to the house, 2. Fixing the pipe and appliances in the house to turn on the gas, 3. making people whole as customers of Columbia Gas for the physical loss but also for the mental anguish and terrifying experiences they had to endure and 4. Supporting people as they waited for 1, 2, and 3 to be complete.
Columbia Gas did accomplish the work of fixing the pipe in the street ahead of schedule and without further disaster. For this we are thankful. However, the rest of the work has been miserable. Anytime the recovery has had to deal with the plight and need of people Columbia Gas has initially failed only getting it right days and sometimes weeks after local and state officials have raised the pressure so much that they had to relent. The plight of people and their suffering has been prolonged because of a broken claims process, a broken repair process and a total lack of understanding of how to communicate with customers. Long before we had 250 houses a day lit with gas, we had weeks of only 40 homes lit per day. For this not only does Columbia Gas but Gilbane Recovery Services, bear responsibility and as such should be investigated. Before we had days of 100 appliances delivered we had days with none. For almost a week, securing temporary housing was not only daunting, but nearly impossible. Customers were lied to about availability of hotels and RVs and consistently left in the dark on their claims processes. All the while hotel rooms and RVs sat empty. Having to endure not 1, not 2 but as many as 5 assessments of their homes and appliances before one wrench was turned to fix one boiler. Many times people languished without answers to important questions about when should they stay home from work to accommodate Columbia Gas and GRS contractors, and when can they expect answer regarding their claims. All the while, people were sleeping in cold beds and cooking on hot plates and taking cold showers. Families huddled in RV’s and far away hotel rooms waiting for their homes to be fixed.
I am not sure what would have happened to our communities if not for the firefighters of the Lawrence, Andover, North Andover fire departments and the over 1,000 firefighters that came in support of them including the State Fire Marshal’s office. The effect of this disaster was controlled only by the professional posture and response of the Lawrence, Andover, North Andover police departments and the over 1,000 police officers from across the commonwealth and the State Police. All the municipal employees that put down their city and town bureaucracies and became an army of first responders, aid and humanitarian workers, from the city councilors and selectmen to the library director, from state
representative to the teachers and staff at our public schools (many affected themselves). The Governor and his staff and cabinet, who seamlessly rolled up their sleeves and became an active, important part of these efforts, the State legislature and the federal delegation both made us feel as if our plight was the most important business before the commonwealth. I have never been more proud to be associated with a group of people in my life. They all showed the spirit of government and its power to do good. I must say that the rank and file Columbia Gas workers and zone captains and the workers who fixed the pipe in the street all were a shining spots in this ordeal. Zone captains became a symbol of the good Columbia Gas could do if it got it stuff together.
The recovery in the personal and communal sense for every person affected is going to take some time not measured in days or weeks. I am not sure when we will remove from our memories the darkness, the fire, the cold nights, the cold showers or the evacuations. So, in the end we will need help from state and federal officials and government to pave our roads, to fix our infrastructure, to pay for economic development, basic help to get off the mat after being knocked down by Columbia Gas.
But what we all except from you, what we ask of you, is to do what is at the core of why we have governments, and that is to protect us and to insure this can’t and won’t happen again. In this one incident, Columbia Gas showed they could not provide the service they promised everyone safely. This failure alone should cause that you should take their privilege to run a gas company away. Break it apart revoke their license make them sell their business to someone else, it doesn’t matter how, but like Leonel Rondon’s life was taken, and multiple homes no longer exist, and our lives and livelihood has forever been altered, Columbia Gas as a company should no longer exist. That is what justice for everyone affected would look like.
UPDATE: 11/25/2018 8:00 PM
Landlords and Tenants – Impacted by Gas? Know your Rights
Resource Page from Columbia Gas on Rental Housing Questions
Massachusetts State Sanitary Code requires landlords to provide a heating system in good working condition and hot water for residents. The heating system must be able to heat homes to at least 68º F during the day and 64º F at night. Hot water in homes must be between 110º F and 130º F.
The state Attorney General’s Office has issued guidance stating that landlords cannot collect rent for the time period that affected units lack heat or hot water. Instead, Columbia Gas will pay rent to landlords for affected units that have been without heat or hot water since September 13. As part of the claims process, landlords who have collected rent since September 13 will be required to return those payments to their tenants.
If you are a tenant with no heat or hot water, please ask your landlord to file a lost rent claim with Columbia Gas as soon as possible. If you paid rent to your landlord while your unit was without heat or hot water and do not receive a refund from your landlord, please call the Attorney General’s Merrimack Valley Hotline at 617-573-5370 and please also advise your Columbia Gas adjuster.
If you need temporary alternative housing, please call Columbia Gas at 1-800-590-5571 and press #3, or work with your adjuster.
Please refer to the Attorney General’s press release on November 5, 2018 for more guidance on landlord tenant issues.
FAQs Related to Rental Units with No Heat or Hot Water
Q: I’m a tenant who has been paying rent since the events of September 13 despite not having heat or hot water. Can I be reimbursed for rents paid?
A: Columbia Gas will be working with landlords to address these situations and can pay your landlord for rent since September 13. Your landlord should be reimbursing you for the rent you paid or giving you a credit towards your future rent. Please work directly with your landlord to reach an agreement regarding the reimbursement of rents you paid. If you encounter difficulty with your landlord, please call the Attorney General’s Merrimack Valley Hotline at 617-573-5370 and speak to a representative.
Q: My landlord is insisting I still make my rental payments. How can you help?
A: Please refer to the Attorney General’s guidance on your rights as a tenant. Tenants who are having problems with their landlords should call the Attorney General’s Merrimack Valley Hotline at 617-573-5370 and speak to a representative.
Q: I don’t have heat or hot water. Do I have to stay in my rental unit?
A: Temporary alternative housing is available to all affected residents who do not want to stay in their homes. The housing program, which includes hotel rooms, apartments, travel trailers, and combination warming centers and shelters is being coordinated with support from local and state agencies and other partners. Call 1-800-590-5571 and press #3 to get placed in temporary alternative housing.
Q: If I choose to live in alternative housing because my apartment does not have heat or hot water, do I still need to pay my rent?
A: No. Your landlord should not be charging you rent in that situation. Your landlord should instead file a lost rent claim with Columbia Gas.
Q: If I am concerned about being evicted and continue to pay my rent, will Columbia Gas reimburse me for this cost?
A: Columbia Gas will be working with the landlords to address these issues and can pay rent to your landlord through the claims process. You should also be able to secure a refund or credit from your landlord for any rent you paid while your home was without heat or hot water. If you encounter difficulty with your landlord, please call the Attorney General’s Merrimack Valley Hotline at 617-573-5370 and speak to a representative.
Q: I don’t have a lease with my landlord. Can I be reimbursed for rents I paid?
A: Please work directly with your landlord to reach an agreement regarding the reimbursement of rents you paid. If, after asking your landlord to file a lost rent claim with Columbia Gas you are not provided rental reimbursement, you should call the Attorney General’s Merrimack Valley Hotline at 617-573-5370 if you encounter difficulty with your landlord. You should also advise your Columbia Gas claims adjuster.
Q: I’m a landlord who has not received rental payments from my tenants because of the events of September 13, can I be reimbursed for lost rental income?
A: Yes, you may be eligible to receive reimbursement. If you haven’t filed a claim, please reach out to our claims line and request to open a claim. You can call 1-800-590-5571 or visit one of our Claim Centers. In order for lost rent to be reimbursed, we will need a copy of your rental agreement(s), the address of your rental property, the name(s) and contact information for your tenant(s) and validation of monthly rental charge, or other documentation which substantiates the rental agreement.
Q: My tenants are asking me to reimburse rent paid during a period where the unit was not up to State Sanitary Code due to the events on September 13. Will I have to reimburse them?
A: Columbia Gas can pay the landlord rent for the period between September 13 and the date heat and hot water are restored. As part of this process, the landlord will be required to refund any rent collected from the tenant for this period. Please call 1-800-590-5571 or visit one of our Claim Centers to discuss your options. You will need to work directly with your tenants so that you may reimburse your tenants in one of the following ways:
- Refund tenants their rents if they have already paid; or,
- If agreeable to your tenant, provide a credit to the tenant against future rent.
Q: It’s not my fault the unit does not have heat or hot water. Can I continue to collect rent?
A: The Attorney General’s Office has taken the position that trying to collect rent or threatening eviction on a unit that lacks heat or hot water due to the events of September 13 is a violation of the state consumer protection law. For further information, please refer to the Attorney General’s guidance on your obligations as a landlord. You should instead file a lost rent claim with Columbia Gas by calling 1-800-590-5571 or visiting a Claim Center. Please refer to the Attorney General’s guidance on your obligations as a landlord.
Q: My rental unit has both heat and hot water, yet tenants are withholding rent despite living in the unit. How can you help?
A: If your tenants are withholding rent for a period in which heat and hot water have been restored, you may wish to consider consulting with a private attorney. However, to avoid any misunderstandings, make sure that your tenants are not withholding rent as a credit against rent they paid for a period in which the rental unit was without heat or hot water.
Q: I don’t have a written lease with my tenants. Can I still be reimbursed lost rental income due to the September 13 incident?
A: You may be eligible to receive reimbursements for lost rental income if you are able to provide documented evidence of regular rental income. If you haven’t filed a claim, please reach out to our claims line and request to open a claim. You can call 1-800-590-5571 or visit one of our Claim Centers.
Q: I don’t have a written lease with my tenants and they pay in cash. Can I still be reimbursed lost rent due to the September 13 incident?
A: You may be eligible to receive reimbursements for lost rental income if you are able to provide documented evidence of regular rental income. However, we are unable to process claims without any documentation or proof of loss. Columbia Gas recognizes that every situation is unique and will work with you to try and substantiate your claim.
Q: What type of documents do I need to support my claim for lost rental income?
A: In order for lost rent to be reimbursed, we will need a copy of your rental agreement(s), the address of your rental property, the name(s) and contact information for your tenant(s) and validation of monthly rental charge. If a rental agreement is not in place, you will need to provide documented evidence of regular rental income. Examples of such documented evidence include canceled rent checks, rental deposit slips, and other documents that prove you were receiving regular rental income from the tenant. Columbia Gas recognizes that every situation is unique and will work with you to try and substantiate your claim.
UPDATE: 10/22/2018 4:30 PM
38 Miles of pipe replacement COMPLETED. 3,615 services lines replaced, 3,438 of which are gas ready. 12,882 Claims received from Lawrence, $10.49 Million Paid out. 1,519 families in alternate housing, 1,314 in hotels, 198 assigned to the RV Community. 2,540 non shelter housing available. Not perfect but progress.
UPDATE: 10/21/2018 4:30 PM
84% pipe replacement COMPLETED (37.2 miles). 57% Service Lines to homes & businesses replaced 55% gas ready. 12,869 Claims Received from Lawrence, $10.11 Million paid out. 1,505 Lawrence families in alternate housing, 1,301 in hotels, 197 assigned to an RV Community. 2,542 non shelter housing available. Not perfect but Progress. #MVGasFire #recovery
UPDATE: 10/19/2018 3:00 PM
Today's Update (10/19): 77.3% pipe replacement COMPLETED (34.4 miles). 1,528 individual appliances have been replaced. 50.8% Service Lines to homes & businesses replaced 47.5% gas ready. 12,745 Claims Received from Lawrence, $9.33 Million paid out. 1,398 Lawrence families in alternate housing, 1,210 in hotels, 182 assigned to an RV Community. 1,758 non shelter housing available. Not perfect but Progress. #MVGasFire #recovery
UPDATE: 10/15/2018 5:00 PM
Due to the ongoing Gas Disaster recovery in South Lawrence and to ensure safety for all, and not get in the way of the work of the recovery, Halloween City-wide in Lawrence will be Sunday, Oct. 28th, 4-6 pm.
UPDATE: 10/13/2018 5:15 PM
BOILERS, FURNACES, WATER HEATERS INVENTORY
|CAST IRON BOILERS|
|WEILMCLAIN||W381357802||CGA 3 PIDN BOILER NATURAL GAS WITH T007 S2|
|WEILMCLAIN||W381357804||CGA 4 PIDN BOILER NATURAL GAS WITH T007 S2|
|WEILMCLAIN||W381357806||CGA 5 PIDN BOILER NATURAL GAS WITH T007 S2|
|WEILMCLAIN||W381357808||CGA 6 PIDN BOILER NATURAL GAS WITH T007 S2|
|WEILMCLAIN||W381357810||CGA 7 PIDN BOILER NATURAL GAS WITH T007 S2|
|WEILMCLAIN||W381357824||CGA 8 PIDN BOILER NATURAL GAS WITH T007 NO DH S2|
|UTICA||UUH15B070FE||UTICA 15B 70 MBH GAS BLR|
|UTICA||UUH15B096FE||UTICA 15B 96 MBH GAS BLR|
|UTICA||UUH15B120FE||UTICA 15B 120 MBH GAS BLR|
|UTICA||UUH15B145FE||UTICA 15B 145 MBH GAS BLR|
|USBOILER||U203NIG2||62 MBH SERIES 2 3 SEC NATURAL GAS BOILER|
|USBOILER||U204NIA2||96MBH CHIMNEY VENT ALPHA PUMP 82.3%|
|USBOILER||U205NIA2||130MBH CHIMNEY VENT ALPHA PUMP 82%|
|USBOILER||UX203NAH||70 MBH X2 3 SEC CI NAT WTR BLR|
|USBOILER||UX204NAH||105 MBH X2 4 SEC CI NAT WTR BLR|
|USBOILER||UX205NAH||140 MBH X2 5 SEC CI NAT WTR BLR|
|USBOILER||UPIN3SNIHE2||BURNHAM 62 MBH STM BLR 158SQFT|
|USBOILER||UPIN4SNIHE2||BURNHAM 105 MBH STM BLR 271SQFT|
|USBOILER||UPIN5SNIHE2||BURNHAM 140 MBH STM BLR 358SQFT|
|USBOILER||UPIN6SNIHE2||BURNHAM 175 MBH STM BLR 450SQFT|
|USBOILER||UPIN7SNIHE2||BURNHAM 210 MBH STM BLR 542SQFT|
|LAARS||LMFTCW140NA1XN||140 MBH MASCOT FT COMBINATION BOILER WITH PUMP|
|LAARS||LMFTCW199NA1XN||199 MBH MASCOT FT COMBINATION BOILER WITH|
|NAVIEN||NNNCB180E||CCY 80 MBTU LP/NAT COMBI ASME BLR|
|NAVIEN||NNCB210E||CCY 100 MBTU LP/NAT COMBI ASME BLR|
|NAVIEN||NNCB240E||CCY 120 MBTU LP/NAT COMBI ASME BLR|
|HEATTRANS||HUFTC140W||CCN 14K - 140K WM NAT COMB BLR|
|HEATTRANS||HUFTC199W||CCN 20K - 140K WM NAT COMB BLR|
|WALL MOUNT BOILER|
|LAARS||LMFTHW100NA1XN||CCY 100MBH RES WHTR BLR NAT *X|
|LAARS||LMFTHW140NA1XN||CCY 140MBH RES WHTR BLR COMB NAT *X|
|NAVIEN||NNNHB80||HEATING BLR 80 MBTU / FIELD|
|NAVIEN||NNHB110||HEATING BLR 110 MBTU / FIELD|
|NAVIEN||NNHB150||HEATING BLR 150 MBTU / FIELD|
|HEATTRANS||HUFT80W||CCY 8K - 80K BTU 80W NAT HE BLR|
|HEATTRANS||HUFT100W||CCY 10K - 100K BTU 100W NAT HE BLR|
|HEATTRANS||HUFT120W||CCY 12K - 120K 120W NAT HE BLR|
|HEATTRANS||HUFT140W||CCY 14K - 140K 140W NAT HE BLR|
|TANKLESS WATER HEATERS|
|NAVIEN||NNNPE240ANG||CCY 199 MBH LP/NAT TKLS WATER HEATER|
|NAVIEN||NNPE210ANG||CCY 180 MBH LP/NAT TKLS WATER HEATER|
|NAVIEN||NNPE180ANG||CCY 8.4 GPM 150 MBH NG/LP TKLS W/PUMP|
|NAVIEN||NNPE240SNG||CCY 199K MBH PREM TKLS GAS WATER HEATER|
|INDIRECT WATER HEATERS|
|SUPERSTOR||SUPSSU45||45 GALLON INDIRECT WATER HEATER WITH STAINLESS STEEL CONTROL|
|SUPERSTOR||SUPSSU60||60 GALLON INDIRECT WATER HEATER WITH|
STAINLESS STEEL CONTROL
|SUPERSTOR||SUPSSU80||80 GALLON INDIRECT WATER HEATER WITH|
STAINLESS STEEL CONTROL
|TANK TYPE WATER HEATERS|
|STATE||SGS640BCSN||40 GALLON 40 MBH NATURAL SHORT BOY WATER HEATER ALUMINUM|
|STATE||SGS640YBDSM||40G 38MBH NAT WATER HEATER MAG DV|
|STATE||SGS640YBVIS||40 GALLON 40 MBH NATURAL S/BOY WATER|
|STATE||SGS650BRTMN||50 GALLON 40 MBH NATURAL WATER HEATER|
|STATE||SGS650YBDSM||50G 38MBH NAT WATER HEATER MAG DV|
|STATE||SGS650YBVIS||50 GALLON 40 MBH NATURAL S/BOY WATER|
|STATE||SGS675XRRS||74G 75.1MBH NAT WATER HEATER ALUM|
|STATE||SGS675YRPDTLDM||75 GALLON 70 MBH NATURAL WATER HEATER|
|YORK||YTG9S060B12||YORK 60 MBH 95% MULTI GAS FURN|
|YORK||YTG9S080B12||YORK 80 MBH MBH 95% MULTI GAS FURN|
|YORK||YTG9S100C16||YORK 100 MBH MBH 95% MULTI GAS FURN|
|YORK||YTG9S120D20||YORK 120 MBH 95% MULTI GAS FURN|
UPDATE: 10/12/2018 8:00 PM
Filing & payment information for taxpayers affected by the recent Merrimack Valley explosions
For taxpayers affected by the recent gas explosions in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence, the Department recognizes that taxpayers in these areas might be unable to comply with their filing or payment due dates that occurred on or after the date of the explosions. The Department would like to assist taxpayers as much as possible.
Consequently, the Department will waive any penalties associated with any late-filed return or payment that was due on or after September 12th and before November 1st. The Department will waive penalties through November 15th, and will later revisit whether any further extensions should be granted. If any taxpayer in the affected areas receives a penalty for this period they should reach out to us at (617) 887-6367.
UPDATE: 10/11/2018 7:00 PM
Preliminary Report Pipeline: Over-pressure of a Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Low-pressure Natural Gas Distribution
UPDATE: 10/11/2018 11:00 AM
Below is the planned schedule for the following 72 hours where our teams will begin work. In many cases, this process will take more than one day. Customers whose streets are listed must have someone over 18 years old at home that day for work to commence. If an adult cannot be home on that day, we will be back in your neighborhood in the following days. We will continue to try to make contact until we are able to complete your in-home work.
UPDATE: 10/09/2018 8:00 AM
Find out detail dates about when your specific house will be "Gas Ready", "House Ready", & "Re-Lit" at this webpage:
www.columbiagas.com/massachusetts/restoration these dates can change for the better check daily. Thanks for your patience!
UPDATE: 10/05/2018 2:00 PM
Columbia Gas Announces ‘House Ready’ Plan for Greater Lawrence Area
Aligned with Gas Ready Schedule to Complete Project by November 19
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, a unit of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI), today announced additional details of the plan to restore gas service to customers in the Greater Lawrence area, including planned assessments and appliance installations, in coordination with the previously announced ‘Gas Ready’ construction schedule.
The ‘House Ready’ plan outlines details for the in-home and in-business assessments, appliance installations and the final safety checks required to restore gas service.
What You’ll See
Full assessments of homes and businesses are continuing with expected completion by October 19. The installation process, driven by what’s learned during the full assessments, will align closely with the ‘Gas Ready’ construction plan scheduled to be complete by November 19.
Our contract partners, Gilbane Reconstruction Services, will follow a block approach to assign crews in the field, based on experience developed in their response to Hurricane Sandy. Similar to a production line, they will follow streets and blocks in a neighborhood and deploy crews to disconnect and remove damaged appliances, repair or replace in-home gas lines, and connect new appliances to make the home ‘Gas Ready’.
With 63 projects across the 8 zones, there will be multiple blocks within each of the zones.
- Customers will be notified by Columbia Gas when to expect installation crews to be in their block. A new interactive map will be available on Monday, October 8 at www.ColumbiaGasMA.com, which will enable customers to check the status of projects in their neighborhood.
- Customers working through the claims process should continue to work with their claims adjuster. Additional information on claims is available on ColumbiaGasMA.com.
“The next steps of our mission to restore natural gas service are dependent upon our ability to access homes and businesses,” said Joe Albanese, Chief Recovery Officer for the project. “The new interactive map will help bring clarity to customers as to when construction and restoration work is planned for their area.”
Added Pablo Vegas, Chief Restoration Officer for NiSource, parent company of Columbia Gas. “We have rapidly increased staffing to enable the progressive restoration of natural gas service.
Customers can expect more details early next week regarding the ‘House Ready’ process and weekly updates on our progress until we complete our work.”
The path to service restoration includes three areas of work:
- Making Your Home or Business ‘Gas Ready:’ Construction crews will install the main gas line on your street that brings gas into the area. Service lines will connect your home or business to the main line.
- Making Your Home or Business ‘House Ready:’ Assessment teams will, if they have not already, visit your home or business to assess your natural gas appliances and piping, and review options with you. The installation process will complete repairs and connect new appliances.
- Natural Gas Service Relight: To restore natural gas service to your home or business, all work inside and outside your home or business must first be completed. Once your home or business is both ‘Gas Ready’ and ‘House Ready,’ a Columbia Gas representative will visit your home or business, perform additional safety checks and restore your natural gas service.
Our ability to relight and restore natural gas service is dependent on the home or business being both ‘Gas Ready’ and ‘House Ready.’ We are growing the ‘House Ready’ workforce each week and aim to complete the project by November 19. Columbia Gas currently has more than 3,000 employees and contractors dedicated to the restoration of gas service in the Greater Lawrence area.
Columbia Gas and contracted construction teams have already begun restoration efforts in all three communities of Lawrence, North Andover and Andover, including assessments and installations.
Customers who have specific needs should continue to contact Columbia Gas’ claims line at 800- 590-5571, option 3. Columbia Gas is also providing alternative housing options with additional information available on the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency website. Columbia Gas will share weekly updates about construction and service restoration at www.ColumbiaGasMA.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
UPDATE: 10/05/2018 12:05 PM
Greater Lawrence Alternative Housing Information
The Baker-Polito Administration, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Mayor Rivera, Town Managers Maylor and Flanagan and Columbia Gas today announced that alternative housing is being made available to customers impacted by the September 13th gas line incident who choose not to stay in their homes as the weather turns colder. The housing program, which includes hotel rooms, apartments, travel trailers, and combination warming centers and shelters, is being coordinated by Columbia Gas with support from local and state agencies and other partners. Impacted customers will be able to stay in alternative housing until service to their homes is restored.
For customers calling today (October 5), hotels and apartments are available. Travel trailer options will be available in the coming days, and the congregate shelter will be open on Monday, October 8th. Columbia Gas has announced that it aims to restore gas service, including heat and hot water, to all homes by November 19th. In addition to housing options, congregate shelter locations will be available for residents to use as an overnight option and for daytime use for hot showers and warming centers.
“We are pleased to announce housing options, especially for our most vulnerable residents, to make this recovery process a little easier and provide essential services as the days get cooler. Since tragedy struck thousands of residents in the Merrimack Valley leaving them without heat and hot water in their homes, the team has been working around the clock to make repairs and offer services,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration will keep working to ease the frustration and obstacles brought to families and businesses until the restoration in complete.”
“As the weather will become colder before gas service is fully restored, we are taking significant steps to make sure that thousands of impacted customers have warm alternative housing options,” said MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz. “MEMA has worked closely with Columbia Gas and the communities to make these housing options available for those who need them in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover.”
“As we finalize the plan to restore service to the greater Lawrence area, we are focused on meeting our customers’ critical needs,” said Pablo Vegas, Chief Restoration Officer, NiSource, parent company of Columbia Gas. “We are taking steps to make temporary housing options available to customers before the colder weather sets in.”
”While the first line of defense for cold weather is for the recovery, construction and restoration effort to make the November 19th target date, it is our responsibility to plan for all eventualities,” said Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera. “This housing alternative plan gets as many people as possible out of the cold and into a warm place, focusing on the most needy, and most vulnerable, as the hard work of getting homes Gas Ready, House Ready and lit presses on.”
"It is important for our residents to know that although we remain focused on ensuring that gas service is restored by the November 19th date, we have developed a plan to address the possibility that a drop in temperature may make it impossible for some of those residents to stay in their homes. Protecting those most at risk is critical and this plan does exactly that," said North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor.
“We are going to continue to work to provide the necessary resources to help our residents through the recovery and restoration process,” said Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan. “Housing alternatives will be critical as the weather gets colder and I am pleased that we have been able to mobilize an inventory of options that will be available to our residents and families that have been affected and are in need.
Impacted Columbia Gas customers who choose to be placed in alternative housing should call Columbia Gas’ Claims line: 1-800-590-5571. A member of the Housing Assistance Team will gather information from the customer, including information about access and functional needs, size and family makeup, and individual and family needs. This information will be used to identify housing options for customers.
While any resident in the impacted area is eligible for housing, Columbia Gas will be proactively reaching out, beginning early next week, to its most vulnerable customers, including the elderly, families with young children, and people who have access and functional needs or medical conditions, and to residents whose homes will not have their gas service restored until after November 1st to assess their needs and offer to facilitate alternative housing assignments.
Transportation arrangements will be provided for residents staying in hotels and apartments who do not have their own means of transportation, including Uber and Lyft rideshare services. Information will be provided to residents during the placement process.
Columbia’s Housing Assistance Claim Team will offer customers one of the available housing options:
- Hotels–Over 3,000 hotel rooms have been reserved by Columbia Gas through mid-November for use by its customers. The participating hotels are all within approximately 30 miles of the three impacted communities. Transportation arrangements will be provided for residents who do not have their own means of transportation, including Uber and Lyft rideshare services.
- Apartments – Over 150 one, two, and three bedroom apartments have been leased by Columbia Gas for use by customers. The apartments are within approximately 15 miles of the impacted communities. Transportation arrangements will be provided for residents who do not have their own means of transportation, including Uber and Lyft rideshare services.
- Travel Trailers – 360 new travel trailers have been leased by Columbia Gas to be used as temporary housing for families. Four sites are being established in the impacted communities: 150 trailers will be located in South Common Park in Lawrence, 100 trailers in Pemberton Park in Lawrence, 80 trailers at Grogan Field in North Andover, and 40 trailers at Recreation Park in Andover. The travel trailers are 30’ in length and include kitchens, bathrooms with showers, and sleeping accommodations for up to 8 people. Each trailer site will have around the clock management, maintenance and security personnel. The trailer sites will be operational next week. Residents must contact Columbia Gas to coordinate housing placements, and will not be assigned to travel trailers on site.
- Congregate Sheltering – a combination warming center and congregate shelter will be located at IndusPAD Mill, formerly Malden Mills, at 46 Stafford St. in Lawrence. Initially, the shelter will have an overnight capacity of 250 people, but it will scale up to 1,000 people if the demand increases due to cold weather. Columbia Gas customers can also visit the shelter during the daytime for hot showers, and to use as a warming center. The overnight shelter will be used to meet short-term demand due to cold weather.
For additional information and slides, see: Greater Lawrence Housing Options
These housing alternatives, and other recovery programs, are in response to the September 13, 2018 incident that impacted Columbia Gas customers in Lawrence, North Andover, and Andover, and left approximately 10,000 households without heat and hot water. The housing assistance program, which will remain in place until gas service is restored for residences, is being paid for by Columbia Gas. Housing needs will continue to be assessed throughout the recovery process and additional options will be coordinated as necessary.
UPDATE: 10/04/2018 1:00 PM
Independent of everything else.... here is some information on space heaters and their safe use. That is all. Please be safe! Thank you.
UPDATE: 10/03/2018 1:00 PM
Construction and Gas Crisis Update Daily Briefings
Here is an update on construction and restoration from Columbia Gas. The update contains slides that show up-to-date data as the pipeline, construction and mitigation continues. Power Point Presentation from daily call with Columbia Gas, Chief Recovery Officer and State Government Officers on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 Update of current construction and logistics layouts pertaining to the Greater Lawrence Gas Emergency.
UPDATE: 10/02/2018 8:00 PM
Columbia Gas Announces ‘Gas Ready’ Construction Restoration Plan for Greater Lawrence;
Nearly 200 Construction Crews Working to Restore Gas Service by November 19
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, a unit of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI), today announced the construction restoration project plan on the path to restoring gas service to customers in the greater Lawrence area. The plan includes the deployment of nearly 200 construction crews as part of a combined workforce of about 3,000 employees and contractors, aiming to complete the project by November 19 with progressive restoration of customers’ gas service.
The construction restoration plan outlines details for the installation of gas main lines and service lines, as well as the installation and testing of gas meters that measure and regulate gas flow to homes and businesses.
An outline of the plan is available at www.ColumbiaGasMA.com.
"We’ve been working with partners at every level of government, with our first responders and departments of public works in our planning efforts to rebuild the system," said Joe Albanese, Chief Recovery Officer. “Our early actions, supported by the National Guard, helped meet some immediate community needs. Now we turn to our current effort in support of the primary mission - to restore gas service to homes and businesses.”
Added Pablo Vegas, Chief Restoration Officer for NiSource, parent company of Columbia Gas. “As we continue to support those in need, we are now unveiling our planned path to restoring service, and will be sharing our plans and progress as we move forward. We know it takes actions, not just words, to show our commitment.”
In refining the construction plan, Columbia Gas identified eight work zones, further defined into 63 projects, running in parallel across the three communities to organize and plan restoration efforts. The three main areas of work are:
- Making Your Home or Business “Gas Ready:” Construction crews will install the main gas line on your street that brings gas into the area and lines connecting your home or business to the main line.
- Making Your Home or Business “House Ready:” Assessment teams will, if they have not already, visit your home or business to assess your natural gas appliances and piping, and review options with you. Upon completion of repairs, we will test natural gas lines for safety and install appliances.
- Natural Gas Service Relight: To restore natural gas service to your home or business, all work inside and outside your home or business must first be completed. Once your home or business is both “Gas Ready” and “House Ready,” a Columbia Gas representative will visit your home or business, perform additional safety checks and restore your natural gas service.
Columbia Gas and contracted construction teams have already begun the restoration program in all three communities.
The “Gas Ready” current scope of work includes the installation of approximately 45 miles of pipeline and 6,100 service lines, providing state-of-the-art infrastructure and enhanced safety features.
Columbia Gas will share information about service restoration and construction at www.ColumbiaGasMA.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.
About Columbia Gas of Massachusetts
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts delivers clean, affordable and efficient natural gas to over 320,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Massachusetts, the greater Springfield area and the Merrimack Valley. Headquartered in Westborough, Massachusetts, the company is the largest gas-only provider in the state and is one of NiSource's seven regulated utility companies. NiSource (NYSE:NI) is one of the largest fully-regulated utility companies in the United States, serving approximately 3.5 million natural gas customers and 500,000 electric customers through its local Columbia Gas and NIPSCO brands. More information about Columbia Gas of Massachusetts is available at www.ColumbiaGasMA.com.
UPDATE: 09/30/2018 9:00 AM
About 100 crews are visiting impacted homes to begin assessments. A qualified electrician and plumber will inspect your natural gas appliances for damage, and test interior gas lines and electrical panels. This assessment will include an evaluation of the space heat requirements and the installation of smoke alarms/CO detectors as appropriate. As of Sept. 28, more then 5,600 smoke detectors have been installed. If your home has the electrical capacity to safely support a space heater, the assessment teams will provide them when they visit you. You will receive an automated phone call several days before teams arrive in your neighborhood in order to give you an approximate date for this assessment. As of Sept. 28, about 650 assessments have been completed. Here are the streets targeted for assessments on Sun., Sept. 30 :
UPDATE: 09/29/2018 1:00 PM
Home Assessments - Columhia Gas 65 crews are visiting impacted homes to begin assessments. A qualified electrician and plumber will inspect your natural gas appliances for damage, and test interior gas lines and electrical panels. This assessment will include an evaluation of the space heat requirements and the installation of smoke alarms/CO detectors as appropriate. As of Sept. 27, more then 4,300 smoke detectors have been installed. If your home has the electrical capacity to safely support a space heater, the assessment teams will provide them when they visit you. You will receive an automated phone call several days before teams arrive in your neighborhood in order to give you an approximate date for this assessment. As of Sept. 27, about 400 assessments have been completed. Here are the streets targeted for assessments on Sat., Sept. 29
UPDATE: 09/29/2018 10:00 AM
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts will be venting/purging gas from the following locations in Lawrence on Sunday, September 30th.
MASSACHUSETTS EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
SITUATIONAL AWARENESS STATEMENT #14
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Re: Update on Ongoing Recovery Efforts - North Andover/Andover/Lawrence
Gas service to most of the 8,570 gas meters in portions of Lawrence, North Andover, and Andover remains shut off as a result of the gas line incident on September 13th. (In the last two days, 90 commercial customers have had service restored by connecting them to other gas lines.) Most buildings serviced by these meters are without heat and hot water, and gas appliances, including gas stoves and gas dryers, are inoperable. The target date for full restoration of gas service is November 19, 2018. Restoration will take place on a rolling basis.
Breakdown of the impacted gas meters by community:
Number of residential buildings/units served by the impacted meters:
Map of impacted area:
Map of Impacted Non-Residential Customers
Repair, Replacement and Restoration Activities
The target date for full restoration of gas service is November 19, 2018. Restoration will take place on a rolling basis.
Exterior Repair and Replacement Activities
Columbia Gas has announced that approximately 49 miles of below-ground gas pipe needs to be repaired, replaced or bypassed. Construction work to replace the pipe has already begun.
Number of construction crews that worked yesterday: 55
Number of construction crews scheduled for today: 64
- Andover: 1
- Lawrence: 16
- North Andover: 4
- Crews purging gas across all three communities: 43
Target for number of construction crews for tomorrow (Thursday): 69
By Friday, Columbia anticipates there will be 122 construction crews working in the three communities.
- Approximately 960 of 301,334 feet of main line pipe has already been replaced
- Service lines to 44 of 6,100 residential units has already been replaced
Interior Repair, Replacement and Mitigation Activities
- Distribution of Hot Plates: On September 22, Columbia Gas began delivering, or making hot plates available to its customers in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. Customers can pick up hot plates at the three Columbia Gas Claims Centers, or can call Columbia Gas at 85-218-8816 to schedule delivery of a hot plate.
Through Tuesday, September 25th, 7,147 hot plates have been distributed:
- 5,396 in Lawrence
- 845 in North Andover
- 906 in Andover
All personnel delivering hot plates to customers will be wearing a white identification card issued by Columbia Gas.
- Distribution of Space Heaters and Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Beginning on September 24th, Columbia Gas, supported by the National Guard, is delivering space heaters and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors to residential customers in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover.
Customers in Andover and North Andover who want space heaters and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors delivered to their homes must call Columbia Gas to schedule delivery. Columbia Gas Company phone number: 855-218-8816. A licensed electrician will accompany the delivery team and will inspect the electrical service in each home to determine whether, and how many space heaters can be safely used in the premises. Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors will also be installed in the spaces where space heaters will be used.
In Lawrence, space heaters and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors will be delivered door-to-door to residential gas customers. A licensed electrician will accompany the delivery team and will inspect the electrical service in each home to determine whether, and how many space heaters can be safely used in the premises. Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors will also be installed in the spaces where space heaters will be used. Customers who are not home at the time of delivery can call Columbia Gas to schedule a delivery. Columbia Gas Company phone number: 855-218-8816.
All personnel delivering space heaters to customers will be wearing a white identification card issued by Columbia Gas. The teams that are delivering space heaters are staffed by 128 assessors, 240 electricians, 20 linguists.
Home Assessments: On Wednesday, September 26, and continuing for several weeks, teams of licensed plumbers and electricians, and linguists where necessary, will begin visiting every impacted residence to do a full electrical and plumbing assessment and determine what appliances need to be replaced or repaired. To the extent possible, repairs will take place during the assessment. This assessment will help prepare customers to have gas service restored safely. Residents will receive a communication from Columbia Gas to confirm the assessment so they can plan to be home. It will take several weeks for all assessments to be completed. All personnel on the assessment teams will be wearing a white identification card issued by Columbia Gas. Today, the assessment teams are staffed by 130 plumbers, 120 electricians, 40 linguists, and 10 inspectors.
Similar assessments of the 800 impacted businesses began on September 22nd.
- Installations: Beginning on September 29th and continuing into November, licensed plumbers and electricians, appliance technicians, and linguists where necessary, will begin visiting impacted residences and businesses to install new gas appliances, such as boilers, furnaces, hot water heaters, stoves and dryers. All personnel on the installation teams will be wearing a white identification card issued by Columbia Gas.
- Effective today, Columbia Gas has deployed liaisons to the city/town halls in all three communities to enhance communication and coordination between the gas company and the municipal governments.
- Columbia Gas is finalizing the locations of Customer Care Centers in all three communities. Additionally, earlier today, Columbia Gas launched three mobile customer service vans; one in each community.
- Today, Columbia Gas/NiSource has 749 employees supporting restoration/recovery activities. Additionally, 1,411 contractors/contract employees are deployed in support of the restoration/recovery.
Key Columbia Gas Phone Numbers
- Customer Service Hotline for Affected Customers: 866-388-3239
- Property Claims Number: 800-590-5571
- Support for Affected Businesses: 603-231-7044
- Hotel Placement by Columbia: 866-294-9226
- To schedule delivery of hot plates and space heaters: 800-590-5571
- Emergency number: 888-525-8222
More information from Columbia Gas is available at: www.columbiagasma.com
Safety Information for People in Buildings Without Gas Service
- If you smell gas or smoke, notice damage to gas appliances, or other potential emergency situations, step outside and call 9-1-1.
- If you need non-emergency assistance, please call 2-1-1.
- Do not attempt to use any gas appliances until gas service has been safely restored by the gas company.
- If your gas meter has been shut off by either the gas company or you, DO NOT attempt to turn your service back on yourself. Please contact the gas company for assistance; they will send a technician to turn it back on.
- If you smell an odor of natural gas,
- Leave the building immediately and move to a safe location
- Call 911 from outside the building and call the Columbia Gas emergency number at 1-800-525-8222.
- Do not turn off gas to your house or to any appliances.
- Do not try to find the leak yourself or operate pipeline valves.
- Do not touch light switches or use any appliances that could cause a spark, including telephones.
- Do not light matches or candles.
- If you use a grill to cook, place it at least 10 feet away from your home or anything that can burn. Grills should not be used on porches or inside homes.
- Use extension cords safely. Do not overload them and always plug heavy-duty appliances, such as air conditioners and space heaters, directly into wall outlets.
- Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are working. The battery backup in plug-in or hardwired alarms may need to be replaced after the extended power outage.
- Be a good neighbor. Check on family. Friends, neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live along, those with medical conditions, and those who may need additional assistance.
Residents of impacted homes may access social, health, government and community services by calling 2-1-1. Trained 2-1-1 operators will conduct a brief intake and connect callers to government, non-profit and private sector agencies and organizations in the Greater Lawrence area that can address their needs.
Total number of calls to 2-1-1 through 12 PM on September 24th regarding the gas emergency in Greater Lawrence: 4,872
Total number of visits to 2-1-1’s website through 12 PM on September 24th: 659.
Columbia Gas has established the following phone number for people who need immediate emergency housing assistance from Columbia as a result of the gas incident on September 13th: 866-294-9226. There are no emergency shelters operating at this time.
Columbia Gas Claims Centers:
Customers who have been impacted by the gas emergency can file claims at Columbia Claims Centers in the three communities, or by calling 1-800-590-5571. Columbia Gas will compensate its customers for all losses reasonably related to this incident, including, among others, losses in the following categories: 1) bodily injury; 2) damage to property; 3) disruption of businesses; 4) inconvenience and disruption of everyday activities caused by loss of use of gas service due to this event; 5) reasonable efforts to limit or mitigate the loss.
Columbia Gas will reimburse customers for reasonable costs of permanently switching to an alternative fuel source (e.g. electric or oil) for appliances or systems that were fueled by natural gas prior to the outage. If you wish to temporarily switch to appliances and systems that are fueled by sources other than natural gas for the duration of the outage, and then return to gas-fueled appliances, Columbia Gas will reimburse for reasonable costs associated with both the temporary solution as well as the return to gas-fueled appliances and systems.
Customers may elect to contract directly with an appropriate certified licensed contractor to install appliances and systems that are fueled by an alternative fuel source (e.g. electric or oil). If you do hire such a contractor, Columbia Gas requests that the licensed contractor provide you detailed receipts, including your name, service address, make/model of parts, and labor, so that Columbia Gas may reimburse you for reasonable costs.
Claims Center locations:
- Lawrence: Property Claims Center at 1 Market Street, Lawrence (closed for the day on Tuesday, September 24th. Reopening on Wednesday.)
- Andover: Property Claims Center, Old Town Hall, 20 Main Street, Andover.
- North Andover: Property Claims Center, First & Main Plaza (adjacent to CVS), 115 Main Street, North Andover.
Information about the claims process is available at: https://www.columbiagas.com/massachusetts/make-a-claim
Total of All Claims
In response to the overwhelming needs facing those affected, Governor Charlie Baker has announced the establishment of the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund through Essex County Community Foundation. Donations to the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund can be made at http://eccf.org/GLdisasterrelieffund. To date, Columbia Gas has committed $10 Million to this fund.
City of Lawrence:
- For information from Lawrence, please see: www.cityoflawrence.com/gasemergency
- Hot showers are available at the Lawrence YMCA.
Town of Andover:
- For information from Andover, please visit https://andoverma.gov/
- Hot showers are available at Pomp’s Pond, 147 Abbot Street. There also is a shower for people with mobility impairments at the Andover Senior Center, 30 Whittier Court.
Town of North Andover:
- For information from North Andover, please see: https://www.northandoverma.gov/
- Hot showers are available at the North Andover YMCA.
Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)
Utilizing the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), the States of New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and New York have entered into agreements with MEMA to deploy state pipeline inspectors to Massachusetts to support the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in its work inspecting the pipeline construction in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.
UPDATE: 09/25/2018 6:00 PM
Fuel Source Claims Info
Q: I want to switch my appliances or systems to an alternative fuel source now, then I want to switch back to natural gas once my service is restored. Will you pay for that?
Yes. If a residential customer wishes to temporarily switch to appliances and systems that are fueled by sources other than natural gas (such as electric, propane or fuel oil) for the duration of the service outage, and then return to natural gas-fueled appliances, we will reimburse you for reasonable costs associated with both the temporary solution as well as the return to natural gas-fueled appliances and systems. It is important that you have your home evaluated by a licensed electrician or technician prior to switching to any alternate electric solution to ensure it is safe to do so. Customers who want to temporarily switch appliances should file a claim at 1-800-590-5571 if they have not already done so, and speak with a claims adjuster. In order to expedite this process, it would be helpful to procure an estimate from a licensed contractor for the work to be done prior to making this call.
Q: I want to permanently switch to another type of fuel source for appliances or systems. Will you pay for that?
A: Yes. We will reimburse residential customers for reasonable costs of permanently switching to an alternative fuel source (such as electric, propane or fuel oil) for appliances or systems that were fueled by natural gas prior to the outage. Customers who want to temporarily switch appliances should file a claim at 1-800-590-5571 if they have not already done so, and speak with a claims adjuster. A licensed electrician or technician should assist you with this process in order to ensure your home is safe.
Q: How should I go about switching appliances or systems to make sure the work is done right and that you will pay for it?
A: Beginning Wednesday, September 26, teams will begin deployment to every impacted residence or business to do a full assessment and determine what appliances need to be replaced or repaired. This assessment will help prepare customers to have gas service restored safely and damaged appliances replaced. Residents will receive a communication from Columbia Gas to confirm the assessment so they can plan to be home. It will take several weeks for all assessments to be completed. If you are not able to wait until your assessment and repairs are performed, residents may elect to contract directly with an appropriate certified licensed contractor to install appliances and systems that are fueled by an alternative fuel source. Customers who want to temporarily switch appliances should file a claim at 1- 800-590-5571 if they have not already done so, and speak with a claims adjuster. If you do hire such a contractor, we request the licensed contractor provide you detailed receipts, including your name, service address, make/model of parts, and labor, so that we can fully reimburse you for reasonable costs.
Q: How should I go about switching to an alternative fuel?
A: Beginning Wednesday, September 26, teams will begin deployment to every impacted residence or business to do a full assessment and determine what appliances need to be replaced or repaired. This assessment will help prepare customers to have gas service restored safely and damaged appliances replaced. Customers will receive a communication from Columbia Gas to confirm the assessment so they can plan to be at the property. It will take several weeks for all assessments to be completed. If you are not able to wait until your assessment and repairs are scheduled to be performed, you may elect to contract directly with an appropriate certified licensed contractor to install appliances and systems that are fueled by sources other than natural gas (such as electric, propane or fuel oil). Customers who want to switch appliances should file a claim at 1-800-590-5571 if they have not already done so, and speak with a claims adjuster. If you do hire such a contractor, we request the licensed contractor provide you detailed receipts, including your name, service address, make/model of parts, and labor, so that Columbia Gas may reimburse you for reasonable costs.
Q: I want to permanently or temporarily switch my business to an alternative fuel source. Will you pay for that?
A: Yes. We will reimburse businesses for reasonable costs of permanently switching to an alternative fuel source (such as electric, propane or fuel oil) for appliances and systems that were fueled by natural gas prior to the outage, and have that switch paid for by Columbia Gas. If you wish to temporarily switch to appliances and systems that are fueled by sources other than natural gas for the duration of the outage, and then return to gas-fueled appliances and systems, Columbia Gas will reimburse you for reasonable costs associated with both the temporary solution as well as the return to gas-fueled appliances and systems. Customers who want to temporarily switch appliances should file a claim at 1- 800-590-5571 if they have not already done so, and speak with a claims adjuster. It is important that you have your business evaluated by a licensed electrician or technician prior to switching to any alternate electric solution to ensure it is safe to do so.
UPDATE: 09/23/2018 11:00 AM
Outline of Claims Handling for Customers Impacted by Natural Gas Event
Columbia Gas will compensate its customers for all losses reasonably related to this incident, including, among others, in the following categories: 1) bodily injury; 2) damage to property; 3) disruption of businesses; 4) inconvenience and disruption of everyday activities caused by loss of use of gas service due to this event; 5) reasonable efforts to limit or mitigate the loss.
The following provides some general guidelines regarding how the claims will be addressed. If you have additional questions you can contact the 24-hour claims hotline at 1-800-590-5571.
- Residential customers having a claim for losses related to this incident may come into one of the Claim Centers to immediately receive a pre-paid card worth up to $300 to assist with their immediate needs. Claims Centers are located in Lawrence, North Andover, and Andover.
- Residential customers may also call the claims hotline at 1-800-590-5571 to establish their claim. For all residential claims, an adjuster will be assigned who will follow up with the resident to evaluate all documented losses, as well as whether any further assistance is needed to address the resident’s immediate needs. Columbia Gas will work with the resident to make the claim process as easy as possible.
- Columbia Gas will reimburse residential customers for reasonable costs of permanently switching to an alternative fuel source (e.g. electric or oil) for appliances or systems that were fueled by natural gas prior to the outage. If you wish to temporarily switch to appliances and systems that are fueled by sources other than natural gas for the duration of the outage, and then return to gas-fueled appliances, Columbia Gas will reimburse for reasonable costs associated with both the temporary solution as well as the return to gas-fueled appliances and systems.
- Residents may elect to contract directly with an appropriate certified licensed contractor to install appliances and systems that are fueled by an alternative fuel source (e.g. electric or oil). If you do hire such a contractor, we request the licensed contractor provide you detailed receipts, including your name, service address, make/model of parts, and labor, so that Columbia Gas may reimburse you for reasonable costs.
- Businesses impacted by this event will be provided an immediate advance to assist with ongoing business expenses with minimal paperwork (e.g., name of owner, business name, identification, nature of losses being claimed, and a rough estimate of losses).
- The most expeditious manner for business claims to be processed is to call the 24-hour claims at 1-800-590-5571, to establish a claim and begin the process to obtain any needed advance.
- All compensation advanced to businesses in need will be incorporated into each business owner's claim.
- Each business claim will be assigned to an adjuster who can assist business owners regarding appropriate documentation of business losses and impacts, as well as whether the business needs an additional advance to assist with ongoing business expenses. Columbia Gas will work with the business to make the claim process as easy as possible.
- Common items used to assist in facilitating the prompt processing of a business owner’s claim that will be helpful in establishing the business loss include:
- Name of owner(s), Identification (driver’s license, passport, etc.), name of business;
- Business licenses;
- 3 to 6 months of the most recent profit/loss statements;
- Payroll records for the past 3 months;
- Invoices evidencing any unusual or extra expenses incurred as a result of this incident;
- Any expenses unique to your business that you attribute to the disruption of your gas service; and
- Estimates or costs to repair any property damage.
- Columbia Gas will reimburse businesses for reasonable costs of permanently switching to an alternative fuel source (e.g., electric or oil) for appliances and systems that were fueled by natural gas prior to the outage, and have that switch paid for by Columbia Gas. If you wish to temporarily switch to appliances and systems that are fueled by sources other than natural gas for the duration of the outage, and then return to gas-fueled appliances and systems, Columbia Gas will reimburse for reasonable costs associated with both the temporary solution as well as the return to gas-fueled appliances and systems.
- Businesses may elect to contract directly with an appropriate certified licensed contractor to install appliances and systems that are fueled by sources other than natural gas (e.g., electric or oil). If you do hire such a contractor, we request the licensed contractor provide you detailed receipts, including your name, service address, make/model of parts, and labor, so that Columbia may reimburse you for reasonable costs.
UPDATE: 09/21/2018 2:09pm
Timeline of services being delivered to South Lawrence residents affected by the gas disaster.
9/22: Hot Plate Roll out— National Guardsman will go door to door in South Lawrence and distribute hot plates to residents who have no gas in their homes. The guardsman will have identification indicating that they are working on relief efforts.
9/24: Space Heater Assessment— Teams that consist of an electrician, a guardsman, and potentially a firefighter will go door to door to assess each affected home to determine whether a space heater can be used in the home. Space heaters will not be appropriate for all homes. If deemed unsafe, the team will work with residents to determine alternate options.
9/26: Full Assessents— Teams of licensed plumbers and electricians, Columbia Gas reps, National Guardsman and a translater will be in the affected neighborhoods doing full assessments of appliances, boilers, and furnaces to determine what, if any, appliances need to be replaced. Appliances needing to be replaced will be purchased and installed by Columbia Gas and their respective licensed teams.
Important things to know:
-There will be a job fair for translators, plumbers and electricians at Greater Lawrence Technical High School on River Road in Andover tomorrow, Saturday, September 22nd from 9am-7pm. If you cannot make the job fair but are still interested in working through this gas disaster you can call the Columbia Gas Job Line at 866-960-7285.
-The Resource Center will be open today (September 21st) from 12pm-7pm at the Lawrence Elks Club on Andover Street in Lawrence. After today, residents can call 211 to connect with resources and have their questions answered.
-The Columbia Gas Claims Center will be open today from 10am-8pm at the Reliefs In, 1 Market Street in Lawrence and will be open daily until further notice.
-The MVRTA #85 Bus Route will travel through South Lawrence and be free until further notice. It will do a continuous loop through south Lawrence. The route can be found on the main website for Columbia Gas.
-There will be 40 crews out across South Lawrence next week to begin repairing gas mains. Keep in mind that this will directly impact traffic. Allow yourself extra time to travel in and through South Lawrence.
UPDATE: 09/18/2018 3:30pm
UPDATE: 09/17/2018 9:30pm
Updated Recovery Resource Center Location for Tuesday, September 18
Lawrence Regional Recovery Resource Center
Tuesday, September 18, 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Thursday, September 20, 12:00 Noon– 7:00 PM
Friday, September 21, 12:00 Noon – 7:00 PM
Address: Elks Lodge, 652 Andover Street, Lawrence, MA
Customers who need assistance related to the natural gas incident in Merrimack Valley can get help at a new location.
UPDATE: 4:50 PM Sunday, September 16, 2018
As we continue to support the people and communities impacted by the events in the Merrimack Valley area to ensure public safety and restore service as quickly and as safely as possible, below is an operational status report of our progress as of September 16, 2018 @ 15:00.
There are 26 organization supporting this effort.
UPDATE: 11:11 AM Sunday, September 16, 2018
There is an active working 3 alarm fire on Diamond Street. Mutual aid is on scene to assist the Lawrence Fire Department.
What we know right now:
This address was not in the affected area of the gas disaster from Thursday.
The fire is completely unrelated to the gas disaster.
Residents in south Lawrence should continue to return to their homes- be vigilant and check your home when you arrive. If you see something or smell something say something - 211 for information and 911 for emergencies.
Lawrence - South Lawrence 7:00 AM - Return Home
The Evacuation of South Lawrence Continues – and will be lifted at 7am tomorrow morning.
Shelters will remain open at the Arlington, Parthum Sch. And we have opened an additional 3rd shelter at Central
Please be patient
The house to house inspection and gas clearing process is time consuming but important.
You will hear reports of lights coming on in neighborhoods across the City over night.
Do not return to your homes before 7am.
All along North Andover & Andover have had different and distinct recovery processes then the City. This is appropriate and warranted for the reasons I discussed yesterday. Lawrence families affected by this gas disaster will be safest by waiting until 7am to return to their home.
because all of the houses have not had there Gas turned Off & cleared.
Of all the people evacuated – we know of a dozen families that are permanently displaced.
Tomorrow at 1 pm at the site of one of the shelters the Arlington School the City of Lawrence & MEMA will be having a Housing recovery resource center focused on those families and others that we become aware of.
We also have helped Columbia Gas run its 1st Biz/Residential Claims center at the Lawrence Public Library where they took claims and handed out debit cards to customers. It will reopen tomorrow at 9am at the Old high school across the street from the Library.
We did have 3 calls for gas leaks in the City today. We verified 2 common class 1 gas leaks not specifically related to the incident on Thursday. Both are either closed are in the final stages of being closed.
Again if you need to get a question answered or verified you can call 211 if there is an emergency please call 911
The City will continue to update the community through our website www.cityoflawrence.comgasemergency
UPDATE: 2:30 PM Saturday, September 15, 2018
Eversource Continues Coordinating Response to Gas Incidents in Massachusetts
Progress Made in First Step of Multi-Phase Process
Readiness condition: Responding
OVERVIEW AND SYSTEM STATUS
- As Eversource crews work alongside Columbia Gas and mutual aid crews through today, we continue making progress in Phase One of our natural gas restoration efforts in the Merrimack Valley. That first phase is where we must shut off all 8,600 gas meters and enter every home and business to ensure it is clear of natural gas. As of 1:00 p.m. this afternoon, we have cleared 5,202.
- We have 620 people working in the field to finish that job and anticipate having the work completed today.
- The next phase is assuring the safety of the gas system in the area.
- During the third phase, we will assess appliances for any issues.
- Finally, phase four will consist of restoring gas service to each of those 8,600 meters.
- While we do this work, we ask any Columbia Gas customers who shut off their own gas to call Columbia Gas at 1-866-388-3239.
- In instances where we aren’t able to connect with a homeowner, and your gas meter is located inside your home, as a last resort, locksmiths are being used. Shutting off all gas meters is critical step which MUST be completed. We are working very closely with local agencies to help us perform this important safety measure. Our gas technicians are always accompanied by a local first responder, when they enter your home to shut off the gas meter.
- We’re here to support the communities and state government, ensure public safety and restore service as quickly and as safely as possible. We commit to you that we will keep you updated regularly with clear and open communications throughout the process.
ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS
Q.) When can I get back in my house? When will my house have gas again?
This situation is unprecedented. We have brought in scores of additional resources to restore service as soon as possible. However, we expect restoration to take an extended period of time. We are working with emergency responders to visit each home and business to shut off gas service and make sure the home is safe. When an area is complete, the electric company can restore power. We will need to visit each home again to restore gas service.
Q.) I shut off my gas. How do I turn it back on?
DO NOT attempt to turn your gas back on. Contact Columbia Gas to make an appointment to have your service restored.
Q.) I’m concerned my home isn’t safe. Can you check my service?
Yes, contact Columbia Gas to schedule a safety check.
Q.) Will I still have to pay my bill when I’m not getting gas?
When the gas is shut off, there is no gas running through your meter – so there are no charges for gas usage. If you have further questions about your bill, please contact Columbia Gas.
Q.) Who do I call if my property is damaged?
Please call the Columbia Gas Property Claims Helpline at 1-800-590-5571. You can also visit our Property Claims Center at the Lawrence Public Library (51 Lawrence Ave.) from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. on weekdays.
Q.) I have expenses for hotel/food. Will you reimburse me?
Columbia Gas will reimburse displaced residents for reasonable accommodations until it is safe to return home. You can request reimbursement by contacting our Property Claims Helpline at 1-800-590-5571. Keep track of your receipts and expenses so you can be reimbursed.
UPDATE: 11:00 AM Saturday, September 15, 2018
No Residents in South Lawrence should return to their homes.
What we know as of now approximately 5,015 gas meters were impacted in Lawrence.
- 2,274 - Meters Shut-off & Homes cleared
- 323 - Number of technician teams going house to house
The process of going through neighborhoods door to door with the local police & fire. Once all shut offs are complete, the electricity can be restored. We hope to be able to report significant progress throughout the weekend. This is only the first step. Restoration of gas service will require additional steps. We expect Eversource, Columbia Gas, and National Grid will provide regular updates about service restoration.
The evacuation of South Lawrence remains in effect.
Please do not return to your home until further notice. Even if you hear power is on do not return. If you return home, Do not turn the gas back on by yourself if it has been shut off. Call Columbia Gas at 1-800-688-6160
Important Numbers Safety:
- Information- 211
- Emergency - 911 - Emergencies Only
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts
- Property Claims Hotline – 1-800-590-5571
- Dedicated Customer Service – 1-866-388-3239
- Gas Emergency – 1-800-525-8222
Municipal Contact Information:
We recommend that you continue to monitor the city website for more information and live updates:
If you smell gas at your residence. Evacuate to a safe area and call 911 immediately.
For emergencies, call 9-1-1.
Shelter for Evacuees
American Red Cross of Massachusetts - Four evacuation centers have been set up for those in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover who have been displaced by the disaster. Visit @RedCrossMA on Twitter for the latest information.
- Parthum Elementary School at 255 East Haverhill St., Lawrence
- Arlington Middle School at 150 Arlington St., Lawrence
Mass211 - If you need non-emergency assistance or information, call 2-1-1.
Ways to Help
Lawrence Senior Center (155 Haverhill St. - Enter from north of the City)
Donations of non-perishable foods, including: fresh and dried fruits, granola bars, small juice boxes, animal crackers, food for infants, nuts and trail mixes, applesauce, pudding, etc.
- Hand sanitizers,
- alcohol pads,
- underwear for kids and adults,
- feminine products,
- toilet paper,
Essex County Community Fund
A Lawrence Emergency Fund has been created for those affected by the explosions and fires. Donate at Lawrence Emergency Fund or call 978-777-8876.
American Red Cross
The MSPCA's Nevins Farm has been providing for displaced animals. Donations accepted at MSPCA website.