Columbia Gas of Massachusetts announced today that Phase II of the restoration of residences and businesses in the Merrimack Valley is substantially complete. This fulfills Columbia Gas’ commitment to replace by September 15, 2019 those affected appliances and equipment in customers’ homes which were only repaired in fall of 2018.
Following the September 13, 2018 gas event, heating equipment and gas appliances for approximately 10,000 customers were damaged. The vast majority of these customers had their heating equipment fully replaced as part of Phase I, which was announced as ‘substantially complete’ in December 2018.
Of the 10,000 affected customers, approximately 875 had their heating equipment repaired instead of fully replaced in the fall. This was done in an effort to accelerate restoration of gas service before the winter months. Throughout this spring and summer, as part of Phase II, teams have returned to those homes to fully replace the heating equipment, and that work is now ‘substantially complete.’
During Phase II, Columbia Gas also repaired outdoor areas affected by the construction to their previous condition – including residential lawns, irrigation systems, walkways, driveways and state roads throughout the community.
“We are pleased to announce the substantial completion of our Phase II restoration work in the Merrimack Valley, which was completed safely and in advance of the deadline we committed to last year,” said Mark Kempic, President and Chief Operating Officer of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. “While today’s announcement marks an important step in the restoration of these communities, we know there is still work to be done to regain our customers’ trust and our entire Columbia Gas team remains committed to helping the community heal and restoring the faith of our customers across the state of Massachusetts.”
The Phase II restoration work built upon the efforts of Columbia Gas and its parent company, NiSource, Inc., last fall, during which the companies:
- Installed nearly 18,500 new appliances and pieces of equipment for customers in the Merrimack Valley
- Restored service to nearly 7,500 residential and business meters
- Replaced nearly 44 miles of gas main lines and installed over 5,000 service lines
- Provided 2,200 families with temporary housing at the peak of the recovery effort
Through Phase I and Phase II, Columbia Gas has:
- Re-seeded more than 3,500 properties and completed roughly 300 repairs to shrubs, walkways, landscaping, etc.;
- Re-paved 4 Massachusetts state roads, over 150 driveways, private roads and commercial lots, and poured approximately 870 concrete projects
- Reached an $80 million settlement agreement with the towns of Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence for reimbursement of expenses and major roadway repairs in the aftermath of September’s gas event. Per the municipalities’ request, Columbia Gas has compensated each municipality so that they can complete their own municipal road restoration work
- Resolved roughly 97% of claims related to the September 13 event, totaling $108.5M
- Provided over $5M to Merrimack Valley customers in energy efficiency incentives and services, which we expect to increase to $10M by the end of the year
- Donated more than $20M to local communities and charities
Since September, NiSource and Columbia Gas have proactively worked to identify ways to enhance safety across all of its systems and have taken a number of steps to prevent an event like this from occurring again. In Massachusetts, the company is in the process of installing pressurization protection devices on its low-pressure systems, accelerated the implementation of a Safety Management System, and enhanced its emergency preparedness, mapping systems and damage prevention policies, among other safety-focused initiatives.
With the substantial completion of Phase II, a number of resources will continue to be available to customers and residents in the Merrimack Valley. Columbia Gas will continue to provide repairs required to boilers, furnaces, hot water heaters, ranges and dryers, installed or repaired by Columbia Gas or its subcontractors until May 1, 2020 on residential appliances through its Equipment Repair Plan. For business customers, repairs required on appliances installed or repaired by Columbia Gas or its subcontractors will be covered for one year from date of installation or repair. In addition, through December 31, 2019, Columbia Gas is offering no-cost insulation to its residential customers in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence to help customers lower their gas consumption and their gas bills.
The company is also continuing to support the communities through events and partnerships focused on education and local economic development. In addition to supporting the Rock the Register campaign in partnership with local and regional officials, Columbia Gas will host a fall Career Day following the success of its Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day this past June.
“We know that the tragic events of last September will have a lasting impact on the people, businesses, and communities of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, and we will continue to work to make things right for our customers and the community,” said Kempic. “We’d like to thank our customers, local leaders, and partners in each of these communities who have supported us over the past 11 months. We appreciate both your patience and partnership throughout the restoration efforts.”
Columbia Gas customers in the Merrimack Valley can continue to contact Columbia Gas for more information and assistance by calling the Affected Customer Helpline 24/7 at 1-866-388-3239 and by visiting ColumbiaGasMA.com or its Lawrence Customer Care Center, which will remain open until September 2020.
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