FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Media contact: John Guilfoil
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.
After consulting with municipal leaders in the three affected communities, Columbia Gas has decided to consolidate temporary heating assessments and home repair/restoration assessments into one single meeting.
In order to move more quickly toward full restoration of gas service for homes, Columbia Gas has cancelled space heater evaluation appointments scheduled for Friday and beyond. Instead, crews will conduct a single assessment to determine every customer’s repair and replacement needs. Customers who need space heaters and have the electrical capacity to safely use them will be given space heaters at those appointments.
Smoke/Carbon Monoxide detectors will also be given out free of charge during the single assessment.
Columbia Gas will be making automated phone calls at least 72 hours before crews begin working in neighborhoods, and work will be done on a rolling basis.
Columbia will not be making individual appointments, but will notify the town which streets will be receiving assessments several days in advance.
Beginning today, and continuing into November, licensed plumbers and electricians, appliance technicians, and linguists where necessary, will begin visiting impacted residences and businesses to install new gas appliances, such as boilers, furnaces, hot water heaters, stoves and dryers.
There are 122 assessment crews from Columbia Gas working today.
The following streets are scheduled for assessments today, Saturday, Sept. 29:
- Central Street
- Bartlet Street
- Chapman Avenue
- Chestnut Street
- Judson Road
- Locke Street
- Main Street
- Morton Street
- North Main Street
- Old South Lane
- School Street
The following streets are scheduled for assessments tomorrow, Sunday, Sept. 30:
- Kensington Street
- Martingale Lane
- Poor Street
- Sherbourne Street
- William Street
The following streets are scheduled for assessments on Monday, Oct. 1:
- Buxton Court
- Elm Street
- Essex Street
- Lewis Street
- Main Street
- North Main Street
- Sweeney Court
A total of 2,038 gas meters are in the affected zone in Andover.
Andover will deploy town resources each day to support the assessment effort and assist residents.
Main Gas Line Repair Work
More than 110 construction crews are working today, Saturday, Sept. 29.
Areas under construction each day will be announced via the news media, town website and social media. 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.
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.
Approximately 6,324 of 301,334 feet of main line pipe have been replaced. Service lines to more than 40 of 6,100 residential units have been replaced. A total of 68 business customers in the three communities have also had gas service restored.
Gas purging continues in the affected area of Andover today, and is expected to last through tomorrow. Columbia Gas has stated it will notify the communities of any additional purging days, times and locations.
The following areas are scheduled for purging today, Saturday, Sept. 29:
- Walnut to High Street
- Wolcott Avenue
- Lockway Road
- Park Street
- Whittier Street
- Elm Street
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.
Columbia Gas will hold a career fair on Monday, Oct. 1 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m at the ValleyWorks Career Center in Lawrence.
Other Columbia Gas Updates
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 is also finalizing the locations of long-term customer care centers in all three communities.
As of today, Columbia Gas reported there would 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.
Showers for Residents
The hot showers still available at Pomp’s Pond (147 Abbot St.) will remain open through at least Monday, Oct. 1.
Hours are Monday-Friday noon to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 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.
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.
The Andover claims center will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Old Town Hall. It will open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday next week, and again from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6.
The Essex County Community Foundation — Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund will have representatives present at the claims center each day from Wednesday through Saturday next week.
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.
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.