FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018
Media contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Town of Andover Provides Update on Gas Emergency
Claims Center Open in Town Until 8 p.m. Today, Will Re-Open Wednesday-Saturday
ANDOVER — Town Manager Andrew P. Flanagan, Police Chief Patrick Keefe, Fire Chief Michael B. Mansfield, and Andover’s town government department heads seek to continuously update residents on the status of restoration efforts in the aftermath of the Merrimack Valley gas emergency.
Columbia Gas has opened a claims center at the Old Town Hall, 20 Main St. It will remain open until 8 p.m. It will also be open from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Saturday. Claims can also be initiated by phone at 800-590-5571.
As of 2 p.m., 60 Andover residents had gone through the claims center.
Fire Rescue Update
Chief Mansfield reports that the total number of fires in Andover due to the gas emergency has risen. Andover Fire Rescue now reports that there were 45 structure fires in Andover on Thursday as a result of the Merrimack Valley gas emergency.
The number rose today because some home and business owners who had evacuated returned later to find that fires, mostly contained in around gas furnaces or other appliances in basement utility spaces, had burned themselves out.
“The fact that these fires, at least nine of them, burned in the utility spaces and did not extend to the rest of the houses is a testament to keeping basements clean and clear of any storage or debris from around your furnace,” Chief Mansfield said.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
With power outages affecting a number of locations, and with the clocks set to change in a little under a month and a half, Chief Mansfield urges residents to replace the batteries in their smoke/carbon monoxide detectors. A limited quantity of 9-volt batteries are available to residents in need. Call 978-475-1281 for more information.
With gas service not expected to be restored to the affected zone for several weeks, Chief Mansfield is strongly urging residents to follow these fire safety guidelines:
- Ensure there are working smoke/CO detectors in every level and outside bedrooms
- Test smoke/CO detectors monthly
- Chimneys should be professionally cleaned annually
- Wood and pellet stoves can only be installed with a permit
- Keep debris, clothing, and anything else that can burn at lest three feet away from wood and pellet stoves
- Dispose of all stove and fireplace ashes in a metal container with a lid and store the container away from the house/garage/porch/deck.
- Do not use a space heater as your primary heat source
- Keep space heaters clear from any debris, clothing, etc., — at least three feet of clearance
- Plug space heaters directly into walls or only use heavy-duty or appliance-grade extension cords
- Never leave space heaters unattended — do not run them while you are not home
- Portable kerosene heaters are illegal in Massachusetts for home use
There were 129 space heater fires in Massachusetts from 2007-2016.
Emergency Operations Center
The Andover Emergency Operations Center (EOC) continues to operate, and has operated continuously since 5 p.m. Thursday. Located at the Andover Public Safety complex, the EOC is made up of department heads and inter-agency liaisons from Andover Police, Fire Rescue, Town Manager’s Office, Public Works, Schools, Health Division, Facilities, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and Columbia Gas.
Unaffected Area Updates
NiSource Inc., the parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, has notified the Towns of Andover that it has restored natural gas service most of the customers in the unaffected area of town, who turned off their service on Thursday as this emergency was unfolding. Out of the 3,021 customers in this area, 2,493 were turned back on as of 10 a.m. Tuesday. A total of 168 homes were inaccessible/residents not home, and there are still 360 homes on Columbia’s list that teams are still working to re-connect.
Customers are reminded to call Columbia at 866-388-3239 if they are in the unaffected area and still have not had gas service restored.
A total of 207 gas crews are working in Andover at this time to complete the restoration process for gas customers in the unaffected areas. Those numbers are as of 10 a.m., and the Town of Andover has requested an updated figure.
Affected Area Updates
In the affected regions, all gas customers may have sustained damage to their service lines, furnaces, water heaters, and/or gas appliances. NiSource has also committed to either replacing all damaged infrastructure and appliances or fully reimbursing residents who choose to and have the means to pay for repairs or replacement costs out of pocket.
If a resident cannot afford repair or replacement costs, NiSource will arrange for this work to be done for free. If a resident is able to and chooses to arrange for repairs or replacements on their own, NiSource will reimburse all costs.
Residents who incur out-of-pocket expenses will be required to save their receipts and provide proof of damage such as photos or police/fire incident reports.
The Town of Andover is not charging residents or business owners any permit fees for the contracted work or repairs that need to be performed as a result of the gas emergency. An office trailer, generously donated by Suffolk Construction Company, is located behind the Old Town Hall (20 Main St.) for contractors to pull permits at no charge. The trailer is staffed by state inspectors. At the town’s request, NiSource is allowing residents to have any licensed contractor pull repair work permits to begin repair work. Residents do not have to use a specific vendor recommended by NiSource.
The trailer will be in place for as long as it is needed. This will allow contractors for residents in the affected area to quickly get started on vital repairs inside their homes. Please note that only contractors may pull permits for this work. Residents should not come to the trailer to obtain a permit.
Town Manager Flangan has been working directly with Mayor Dan Rivera, North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor, and Governor Charlie Baker to establish a single disaster relief fund that will provide assistance to individuals and businesses impacted by this incident. Details will be released as soon as they are available.
Free Meals and Food for Residents
The Andover Community Services Department is offering free continental breakfast and a hot lunch for all residents every day through Friday, September 21. Residents are asked to call and register at 978-623-8320.
Meals will be served from 8-9 a.m and from noon to 12:30 p.m.
Andover Elder Services also has fresh food and vegetables available free for anyone in need who comes to the Senior Center at 30 Whittier Court. Food will be given out from noon-3 p.m.
For those in need, the food pantry will also be open during normal hours on Thursday, September 20 from 4-5 p.m. at the Senior Center.