The following is a summary of the work completed throughout this project:
In September 2019, at the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) directive, Columbia Gas initiated the verification of approximately 700 former service lines, of which 188 required some form of remediation. This group included customers whose abandoned service lines were formerly connected to distribution mains where a certain type of industry standard construction technique was used to restore gas service last fall.
In October 2019, the DPU required verification of an additional approximately 2,200 former service lines, of which 688 required some form of remediation. This group included customers who previously had a service line connected to a meter that was located inside of the customer’s home or business prior to the September 2018 gas event.
In October 2019, Columbia Gas began the voluntary verification of a final set of approximately 2,000 former service lines, not required by the DPU, out of an abundance of caution. The final set was completed this month and 53 required some form of remediation. This group included customers who had service lines that were connected to meters that were located outside of the customer’s home or business prior to the September 2018 gas event.
There is no immediate safety concern with the gas distribution system in the Merrimack Valley, beyond routine risks we constantly monitor and mitigate as a natural gas provider. Completing these verifications verified a consistent completion of the cast iron pipeline replacement in the area.
While the service line verifications are complete, we will continue to conduct continuous gas leak surveillance and remediation throughout the area to protect the integrity of our natural gas distribution system. Customers will also continue to see Columbia Gas crews in the area on a day-to-day basis as we complete non-emergency work approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU).
We are constantly monitoring our natural gas pipeline distribution system to ensure it is operating safely and proactively looking for ways to enhance our operational and safety procedures. However, the completion of this verification project has confirmed that all abandoned service lines are now compliant with federal and state requirements and in compliance with Columbia Gas’ procedures and protocols. We do not anticipate needing to inspect these old service lines again.
In instances where the inspection found the abandoned service line was not abandoned in accordance with Massachusetts requirements, the crew completed the necessary remediation work, which may have included the removal of old pipe, installation of expansion plugs and caps, or the disconnection of the abandoned service line from the old, inactive gas system.
In total, Columbia Gas verified approximately 5,000 abandoned service lines. This covers all customer homes and businesses affected by last September’s gas event.
As part of our ongoing commitment to the Merrimack Valley, we performed verifications on the gas system we installed during last fall’s recovery effort after we identified some instances of noncompliance with Massachusetts requirements related to the process of abandoning service lines. Out of an abundance of caution and in coordination with our government partners, we wanted to verify that the work on these lines was done consistent with Massachusetts requirements. This verification work was completed in November 2019.
Under the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities' non-emergency work moratorium issued October 3, 2019, customers will continue to see crews out in the community conducting approved work on a daily basis. Across the state, we’re coordinating daily with the DPU to prioritize projects and secure approval to conduct necessary work on our gas distribution system.