FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018
Media contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Town of Andover Provides Update on Gas Emergency
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 postponed the purging of remnant gas from the system in the affected zone, which was initially scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today, due to weather. Purging will begin at noon tomorrow, Sept. 26.
When the purging does begin, there is the chance that some residents may smell gas. Additional Columbia crews will be on-hand and Andover Fire Rescue has assigned a special task force, including a deputy chief to monitor the purging. If any resident smells gas, indoors or outside, they should dial 911 immediately.
Columbia Gas will notify the Town of Andover if additional days are required, and it will be communicated to the public.
State Tax Penalties Waived
The state Department of Revenue has announced it is taking steps to address the concerns of taxpayers in Andover, Lawrence and North Andover who have been affected by the recent gas explosions.
The DOR recognizes that taxpayers may be unable to comply with state tax filing or payment due dates that occurred on or after the date of the explosions, and would like to assist those taxpayers as much as possible.
The department will waive any penalties associated with any late-filed return or payment that was due on or after Sept. 12, and before Oct. 1. Penalties will be waived for one month, and the DOR will later revisit whether any further extensions should be granted.
If any taxpayer in the affected areas receives notice of a penalty for this period they should reach out to the Department of Revenue at 617-887-6367.
Hot Plate Distribution
Town officials have handed out more than 1,000 free hot plates in Andover since Saturday. The hot plates are meant to temporarily assist residents in the affected area with cooking meals as the vital work of replacing gas lines and affected appliances is undertaken. The town has given out all the hot plates it was supplied with but has requested more from Columbia Gas.
Residents who have not yet collected a hot plate are asked to call Columbia Gas’ parent company, NiSource, to schedule a delivery. The number is 855-218-8816.
The Town of Andover expects to receive additional hot plates tomorrow, and they will be distributed to residents at Old Town Hall, 20 Main St., from noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Hot Plate Safety
Chief Mansfield and the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services strongly encourage the safe use of hot plates. Residents are urged to review the following guidelines:
- Only use hot plates and electric skillets on the countertop.
- Keep a 1-foot circle of safety around it; clear of anything that can catch fire.
- Turn off when not in use.
- Be mindful that hot plates stay hotter for longer than gas cooking surfaces.
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking; stand by your pan.
- Teach children to keep 3 giant steps from any cooking (the stove, a grill, or a hot plate).
- Have a pot cover nearby to “put a lid” on a fire. Then unplug the hot plate if it is safe to do so.
- Plug hot plates and electric skillets directly into the wall; do not use extension cords or power strips.
- If the device trips the breaker or blows a fuse, stop using it right away and call an electrician or ask the landlord to so.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Chief Mansfield emphasizes that hot plates should be treated like any kitchen appliance. Do not use power strips or extension cords — always plug them directly into the wall.
Beginning yesterday, residents began receiving automated phone calls from Columbia Gas regarding temporary electric heating sources. There is no charge for temporary heating.
Crews from Columbia Gas will conduct assessments to ensure that space heaters can be used safely inside homes.
Residents who need temporary heating solutions and miss the automated phone call can call 855-218-8816 to schedule an appointment for an electrical inspection and space heater delivery.
Individual Gas Customer Assessments/Repairs
A total of 2,038 gas meters are in the affected zone in Andover.
Phone calls from Columbia Gas to residential and business gas customers have begun to notify them that teams will deploy for damage assessments. At 4 p.m. today, an automated call will be placed to the same households that received one yesterday to notify them of damage assessments scheduled for Wednesday through Friday.
Crews consisting of a plumber, electrician and building assessor will go to all of the homes and businesses in the impacted area, where they will conduct assessments to make sure those buildings are ready for gas restoration and identify any appliances that will need to be replaced.
These assessments may take several hours, and a resident or business key-holder must be present.
Columbia Gas has made a commitment to the Town of Andover that it will provide residents and business owners 72 hours notice prior to arriving for an assessment.
Andover municipal employees will be deployed to neighborhoods during each phase of the restoration effort so that residents’ and business owners’ questions can be answered. The town will provide daily updates as the community continues its recovery.
Employees and contractors will all carry identification. Contractors will carry a white badge stating that they are an “Authorized Visitor for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts.”
These workers will NOT ask for any money, payment, or credit card/banking information. If you have any concerns please contact the Andover Police Department at 978-475-0411.
After meeting with Town Manager Flanagan, Governor Baker’s office and other municipal officials, Columbia Gas agreed to compensate all of its customers for all losses related to the Merrimack Valley gas emergency.
- Bodily injury
- Damage to property
- Disruption of businesses
- Inconvenience and disruption of everyday activities caused by loss of use of gas service
- Efforts to limit or mitigate the loss, such as switching from gas hot water heaters to electric or temporary solutions to heat, hot water and cooking
For more extensive information on the process for switching systems, please click here.
Residents are advised to call the 24-hour claims hotline at 800-590-5571 to initiate the process.
More than 1,800 residents visited the Columbia Gas claims center in Andover over the past week to initiate the claims process.
Gas Line Repair Work
Initial gas line repair work began yesterday with 20 construction crews conducting preliminary work in Andover. The number of crews working in Andover will rise to 40 by Friday.
Construction work will begin on Thursday, Sept. 27 on High Street, Haverhill Street, Stirling Street, Carlisle Street and Corbett Street. Additional streets where repair work will be taking place are expected to be announced tomorrow. The construction schedule is subject to change, and the Town of Andover will provide updates as they become available.
Columbia Gas has announced that approximately 49 miles of below-ground gas pipe needs to be replaced in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence. So far, approximately 412 feet of 301,334 feet of pipe has already been replaced.
Daily, over the next several weeks, the Town of Andover will announce specific streets or areas that will have road and gas line construction.
Areas under construction will be announced via the news media, town website and social media every day. The town will also issue a CodeRED alert to residents within an approximately 1/4 mile radius of any construction.
Road detours will also be broadcast daily, if necessary.
Full restoration is expected to be completed by approximately Nov. 19.
Showers for Residents
The hot showers available at Pomp’s Pond (147 Abbot St.) will remain open Monday through at least Wednesday from noon to 8 p.m.
A total of 25 showers are available for residents who have been without hot water for more than a week.
Residents need to bring their own shower supplies including towels, shampoo, conditioner, and soap. There will be a limited number of showers designated for family use.
There is also an accessible shower for those with mobility impairments located at the Andover Senior Center (30 Whittier Court). Those are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays for as long as they are needed. Anyone who needs accessible shower must call the Senior Center at 978-623-8320 for an appointment time.
Medical Reserve Corps volunteers are assisting in staffing the trailers.
Fire Rescue Update
Andover Fire Rescue responded yesterday evening to a cooking fire at a home on North Main Street. The fire started when oil in a pan that was left on a hot plate ignited, causing smoke to spread through the home.
There were no injuries as a result of the fire, and an on-scene investigation indicated that the hot plate did not malfunction.
Chief Mansfield has heard from a number of residents seeking to use Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG), commonly referred to as propane, as a temporary substitute for natural gas.
Andover Fire Rescue prohibits the use of propane for household purposes where piped natural gas is available from a public utility. However, propane will be permitted when natural gas is unavailable.
A permit is required, and there are specific safety regulations that must be followed by contractors and homeowners.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
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.
Unaffected Area Updates
Columbia Gas informed the Town of Andover that it has restored service to virtually all natural gas customers in the unaffected area. Customers are reminded to call Columbia Gas at 866-388-3239 if they are in the unaffected area and still have not had gas service restored or have not been home to allow a tech inside. If you are in the unaffected area and do not have gas service, you must call this number.