Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and state and local officials today announced that restoration of gas service to residences and businesses in the Merrimack Valley is substantially complete.
With natural gas service restored to 98 percent of residential and business customers, the project has reached a major milestone and is in the process of entering the next phase of the restoration effort.
“Substantially complete” means that nearly all residences and businesses have heat, hot water and working gas appliances. There are less than 200 remaining customers who decided to “self-mitigate,” or complete necessary assessments and installations themselves on their own timeline, independent of Columbia Gas contractors, or customers who have extenuating circumstances. Columbia Gas continues to offer its services to these customers should they request it. For the past two weeks, the team has been largely focused on supporting self-mitigators and customers with complex issues, and has invited all remaining customers with outage issues to contact Columbia Gas contractors to facilitate work before contractor resources ramp down.
Since September 13 the team has worked to restore heat and hot water to nearly 7,500 residential and business meters, and in the process has installed nearly 18,500 new appliances and pieces of equipment (i.e., boilers, furnaces, rangers, and dryers). The construction team replaced nearly 44 miles of gas main lines throughout the three communities and installed over 5,000 service lines. More than 5,000 workers, ranging from plumbers to linguists and Columbia Gas employees and contractors, have worked on this operation to process claims, coordinate alternative housing and do the construction work, repairs and replacements required to restore heat and hot water.
As the restoration project transitions into the next phase, Columbia Gas, and NiSource Inc., its parent company, will continue to have resources in the area to provide continued support and services for its customers in the three affected communities, including providing support to self-mitigating customers and administering an equipment repair plan for new Columbia Gas-installed appliances and equipment at no cost to customers. Columbia Gas and state and local officials continue to work on a comprehensive plan to address remaining concerns for the next phase of the restoration.
“Our administration is committed to supporting the residents and businesses impacted by this tragic explosion, and while we have reached an important milestone to restore gas service there is much work to be done,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We will continue to support the local officials and work with Columbia Gas as this project transitions, and appreciate the strong collaboration from this entire team to support the Merrimack Valley. Lt. Governor Polito and I would like to thank Joe Albanese for his critical contributions to execute this creative recovery process and look forward to his continued work to help people get back to normalcy.”
“I am grateful for the efforts of the team that we assembled; more than 5,000 people strong that have dedicated themselves to this mission around the clock. For so many of them, this is more a humanitarian effort than just a project. They have worked tirelessly, seven days a week, to get thousands of affected Merrimack Valley families and residents home, and hundreds of businesses open,” said Joe Albanese, Chief Recovery Officer, who was appointed by the Governor. “We are continuing to work with the ‘self-mitigators’ to help them restore gas service through their own vendors and with residents who have extenuating circumstances. We encourage ‘self-mitigators’ to work with Columbia Gas contractors as we ramp down our resources and transition to a different phase of this project. I appreciate the strength of the community, the local leadership provided by the Mayor and Town Managers, and the resiliency of the people of the Merrimack Valley.”
“This is a major milestone, but make no mistake: Columbia Gas is here for the long-haul, and there is still more work to do,” said Pablo Vegas, Executive Vice President for NiSource and Chief Restoration Officer. “This has been a tremendous hardship on so many of our customers and the community, and I commit Columbia Gas will continue to support the recovery of the region. I want to personally thank all of the state and local officials, our mutual aid partners, the thousands of workers, and the entire community for their support and steadfast work on this project. And most importantly, I greatly appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers through what we know has been an extraordinarily difficult and disruptive period of time.”
“The top priority for me has always been to get residents back into their homes with heat and hot water, and today, that is where we are,” said Dan Rivera, Mayor of Lawrence. “The recovery process under Governor Baker, led by Joe Albanese, has been successful in getting residents back in their homes weeks before the deadline. This gives us much to be thankful for."
“This has been a long and at times very frustrating recovery for both the residents and businesses of Andover,” said Andrew Flanagan, Andover Town Manager. “I want to thank them for both their patience and resiliency throughout this process. I am pleased that this phase of the process is substantially complete and look forward to working to ensure that Columbia Gas fulfills all of its outstanding obligations to the ratepayers of Andover and Merrimack Valley moving forward.”
“After ensuring that the gas distribution system was made safe, the focus turned to making every impacted North Andover home livable and every impacted North Andover business viable,” said Andrew Maylor, North Andover Town Manager. “Although the gas restoration process was complicated, today we can say that the work to achieve those goals is substantially complete. It should be noted that the leadership of the Chief Recovery Officer was a primary reason we have been able to achieve this milestone.”
Key Facts and Figures
- Approximately 7,500 residential and business meters relit.
- 18,421 pieces of equipment and appliances installed.
- 43.5 miles of gas main lines and 5,086 service lines installed, and 12.3 miles of main line polyethylene pipe requalified.
- Approximately 25,000 smoke and carbon monoxide detectors distributed.
- More than 5,000 workers worked on the restoration project, including contractors, subcontractors, linguists, plumbers, and tradesmen. This included an average of 3,000 contractors per day. This also included an average of 1,000 Columbia Gas and NiSource employees per day.
- 24,417 claims received, with 17,227 resolved to date. $77.96 million has been paid out to customers, including $19.47 million to business customers.
- More than 2,200 families, approximately 8,000 individuals, utilized Columbia Gas-and MEMA-provided temporary housing.
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 ColumbiaGasMA.com.
NiSource Inc. (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 across seven states through its local Columbia Gas and NIPSCO brands. Based in Merrillville, Indiana, NiSource's approximately 8,000 employees are focused on safely delivering reliable and affordable energy to our customers and communities we serve. NiSource has been designated a World's Most Ethical Company by the Ethisphere Institute since 2012, is a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability - North America Index and was named by Forbes magazine as the top-rated utility among America's Best Large Employers in 2017. Additional information about NiSource, its investments in modern infrastructure and systems, its commitments and its local brands can be found at NiSource.com. Follow us at Facebook.com/NiSource, Linkedin.com/company/NiSource or Twitter.com/NiSourceINC. NI-F