FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, Sept. 27, 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 published a “Frequently Asked Questions” page on its website for those in both the affected and unaffected zones. Click here to access that resource.
Andover residents and visitors are asked to refrain from parking on metal construction plates placed on the road temporarily during the rolling construction process. The gas company is in and out of these holes throughout the day. They are working on more temporary “No Parking” signs to make it a little more conspicuous
Schedule Expected Monday
Town of Andover has been informed by Columbia Gas that on Monday the company will provide a street-by-street schedule that includes details on the restoration efforts.
“As lives continue to be disrupted, it is vital that Columbia Gas offer consistent, complete, and accurate information. The company can’t afford any further shortcomings in this area,” Town Manager Flanagan said. “An unprecedented disaster has struck our communities, and we will continue to hold all parties accountable to the residents, business owners and workers whose lives and livelihoods have been thrown into uncertainty.”
Gas Line Repairs: Thursday
Roadwork and main gas line repair work is taking place on Chestnut and Carmel Streets on Thursday. Electronic signs will warn of detours and road closures in the area.
Motorists are urged to use caution in the area. Police officers are posted in the area on details.
Columbia Gas has announced that approximately 49 miles of below-ground gas pipe needs to be replaced in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence. 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 make use of its CodeRed emergency notification service to residents affected areas as necessary.
Full restoration is expected to be completed by approximately Nov. 19.
Gas purging continues in the affected area of Andover today. Purging operations are expected to continue in three additional areas of Andover on Friday, and Columbia Gas has stated it will notify the communities of additional purging days, times and locations.
Throughout the purging process, 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.
Other Columbia Gas Updates
Effective today, Columbia Gas has deployed liaisons to the city/town halls in all three communities to enhance communication and coordination between the gas company and the municipal governments.
Columbia Gas has added mobile customer resource centers in all three communities. Representatives from the company will be staffing the units and are able to answer questions and provide customers with information.
The Andover mobile unit will be located near Shawsheen Plaza at 209 N. Main St. from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Columbia Gas is also finalizing the locations of long-term customer care centers in all three communities.
According to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Columbia Gas/NiSource on Wednesday had 749 employees supporting restoration/recovery activities. Additionally, 1,411 contractors/contract employees were deployed in support of the restoration/recovery Wednesday.
By Friday, Columbia reports there will be 122 construction crews working in the three communities, according to MEMA.
Food Service Updates
Approximately 25 Andover restaurants remain unable to open or have been forced to offer limited food service.
The Andover Public Health Division is working directly with restaurant owners to help them during the recovery phase.
Restaurants must have running hot water for hand-washing purposes to meet the minimum requirements for food service. Hot water is also needed for wash/rinse/sanitize operations for utensils, pots, dishes, etc.
The town has streamlined the process for restaurants seeking to permanently or temporarily change fuel sources. Andover Fire Rescue is making staff available to review sketches and plans for new fuel sources, and the Health Division has staff standing by at 978-623-8640 to discuss the implementation of any operational changes that help restaurants re-open.
Restaurants may also obtain propane permits to use outdoor grills for cooking, so long as prep work and plating occur in a sanitary indoor kitchen environment.
Finally, the Health Division is aware of a number of reputable vendors supplying temporary kitchen trailers to help get restaurants up and running. Click here for a list of vendors and other useful guidelines from the Health Division.
Attorney General Hotline
Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has established a hotline for those with questions and concerns. Residents and business owners may contact the Attorney General’s new hotline at 617-573-5370 in order to connect with specialists in the office who are able to handle questions about legal representation, home improvement scams, and insurance claims from homeowners, renters, and local businesses.
AG Healey will also give a presentation at Lawrence High School (71 N. Parish Road, Lawrence) on Thursday from 5-7 p.m. to discuss citizens’ rights in the aftermath of the Merrimack Valley gas emergency.
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.
On Monday, 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.
Assessment 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 2,700 claims have been initiated so far by Andover residents and businesses.
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.