Suspected gas explosions hit communities in Massachusetts
Local police chief says 20 to 25 houses on fire in the community near Boston.
The dozens of gas explosions that rocked communities in the Boston area Thursday in which at least one person and injuring more than 20, possibly caused by over-pressurization of lines that belong to a local utility, according to industry experts and politicians.
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts announced Friday morning that the crew still need to go through the properties of each of the 8,600 to the affected customers in the cities of Lawrence, andover, North Andover and Methuen who have their gas shut down yesterday afternoon after buildings and houses started to catch fire.
The Massachusetts State Police said at least 70 locations were affected by fire, explosion and “a study of the gas smell” and who are charged with figuring out the cause of zeroing in on the possibility that there is a higher level of gas pressure in the utility’s rules than normal.
“It will take a long time before we know for sure, but that is the initial focus,” Jennifer Mieth, a spokesman for Massachusetts’ Department of Fire services, told Fox News Friday.
A damaged house in Lawrence, Mass., on Friday morning after gas explosions in the area.
The National Transportation Safety Board is also sending a team to the area to investigate and assess the company’s pipelines, maintenance and safety.
The utility said that it needs to perform a safety inspection on each property and is “working with the competent authorities to investigate this incident to understand the cause.”
“We expect that this will be a comprehensive restoration effort, and we will work tirelessly to restore service to the affected customers,” Columbia Gas of Massachusetts said in a statement.
The Associated Press reported that the 18,000 customers in the region have had their electricity shut off in response to the explosions, and many people who were forced to evacuate the cities led to local shelters for the night.
Firefighters battle a house fire in North Andover on Thursday.
“We now have a very clear list, a list of specific streets where residents, when they go into the city on the website or they go on social media, are able to find that the list they realize that they can return to their homes,” North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor told reporters Friday. “We try to be as fast as possible to return those people who can come back in their normal life, to make ready and to prepare for what happens in the weekend and beyond.”
A gas industry expert told the Boston Globe that “there is no doubt that there was evidence of over-pressurization.”
“The question is how it happened,” said Mark McDonald, president of NatGas Consulting.
The morning of the explosion, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts had announced that it would upgrade natural gas lines in the entire country, which would lead to benefits, such as the “enhanced” safety features” and “less future maintenance in your neighborhood.”
But according to McDonald, something happened on Thursday that caused the gas pressure to remain high in the communities.
He explained to the Boston Globe that gas is delivered to customers by means of high-pressure mains voltage that is routed through a substation that drops the pressure to around 60 pounds per square inch to a quarter of a pound.
Experts interviewed by the newspaper said too much or too little gas is unlikely to lead to a fire, but just the right amount of – presumably, a different level than what was previously to be delivered to the affected properties can be household items like light switches and telephones in the sources of danger.
“If you have the right amount of gas, any pilot lights can be a burner,” Bob Ackley, president of Gas Safety USA, told the Boston Globe.
The newspaper said a similar incident happened in Lexington, Mass. in 2005, when KeySpan employees followed a wrong work order and connection with a high pressure to a low pressure one, rays next to a house.
Fox News’ Bryan Llenas contributed to this report.