UPDATE #71 (4 p.m.) Town of Andover Provides Update on Restoration Process Following Gas Emergency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018

Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 617-993-0003

 Town of Andover Provides Update on Restoration Process Following Gas Emergency

ANDOVER — The Town of Andover continuously seeks to provide residents and business owners with key updates regarding the ongoing recovery and restoration efforts following the Merrimack Valley Gas Emergency.

First Snow and Ice of the Season Coming Tonight

Andover is forecast to receive between 4-7 inches of snow and ice accumulation as a storm system passes through the area tonight and into tomorrow.

The Town of Andover and Andover Fire Rescue wish to offer the following general safety tips to ensure residents remain safe both in their homes and while on the roads during the snowfall:

BEFORE A STORM

  • It is always a good idea to have extra batteries in the house. Residents should always be prepared for power outages and stock up on batteries for flashlights or battery powered lanterns. If using candles, there should be a 3 foot ring of safety and be sure to keep them away from anything flammable or combustible.
  • Keep cell phones, laptops and tablets charged as much as possible. Consider a external battery for your devices.
  • Neighbors should talk with one another and set up plans to assist those who may be at risk and/or in need of help.

DURING A STORM

  • Stay off the roads during periods of snow and sleep. If there is a plowable amount of snow, give plow and sand/salt trucks the space they need to operate.
  • If power goes out during the storm, contact National Grid at 800-465-1212 to report an outage.
  • To report a gas leak or other emergency, call 911.

AFTER A STORM

  • Do not go near or drive over any downed power lines.
  • Clear snow from any gas vents attached to your home
  • If snow ever rises above your vehicle’s tailpipe or is plowed to the point where it blocks the tailpipe NEVER start your vehicle before clearing the exhaust
  • Assist the fire department by shoveling out any hydrants near your home.
  • During a power outage, never run generators indoors or in garages. Aim exhaust away from the home, and do not run generators near HVAC intake pipes
  • Do not use space heaters while sleeping
  • Never use your oven as a heat source

U.S. and Massachusetts Senates to Hold Hearings on Gas Disaster

On Nov. 26, the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, led by Sen. Edward J. Markey, will be holding a field hearing in Lawrence to demand answers for the affected communities and hold those responsible to account.

Markey has invited members of the Merrimack Valley community to share how they’ve been impacted by the gas emergency. To submit stories to the congressional record ahead of the hearing, click here.

The Massachusetts Senate has scheduled two oversight hearings of its own next month. The first hearing will be held on Dec. 4 in Boston, while the second will be held in the Merrimack Valley on Dec. 17.

Residents Invited to Small Business Saturday Event

On Saturday, Nov. 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Andover residents are encouraged to visit downtown for a family-friendly Small Business Saturday event, which will include an opportunity for residents of all ages to explore a variety of town-owned vehicles and equipment. 

The Touch-A-Truck event will take place at Old Town Hall and will feature vehicles from the Andover Police and Fire Departments — including a police cruiser and motorcycle — as well as Department of Public Works equipment, like a dump truck and a backhoe.

The event will also feature a limited supply of free giveaways celebrating the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Small Business Saturday is part of an ongoing, multi-faceted effort by the town to support businesses impacted by the gas crisis.

Last Wednesday, a group of town officials, high school students and public relations students from a Northeastern University School of Journalism public relations class took to downtown Andover, visiting more than 30 town businesses and Tweeting with the hashtags   .

Restoration Timeline

The “House Ready” process is expected to be completed between Dec. 2 and Dec. 16, and a Rapid Re-light process has been implemented that will result in gas service being restored ahead of Dec. 2.

As of Thursday afternoon, 70 percent of Andover residents and 80 percent of business customers who lost gas service have had their service restored.

Columbia Gas releases a daily briefing with updates on the progress of the restoration effort. Click here to read the briefing for Nov. 15.

Hot water heaters, stoves and dryers will be replaced and boilers and furnaces will be safely repaired or replaced with those being repaired eventually being replaced beginning in the spring.

Appliance Disposal

The disposal of condemned or replaced appliances is part of the recovery and restoration process. Your appliances will be removed and picked up by Columbia Gas or its contractors. Residents and business owners should not endure any cost for disposing of appliances.

Free Parking Downtown

The Town of Andover will not collect parking fees at municipal parking lots through Dec. 30. The Town encourages downtown visitors to park in the municipal parking lots. This includes Lot 1 (between Andover Village Square and Caffé Nero), Lot 2 (behind Old Town Hall) and Lot 3 (Park Street Village).

Information for Landlords and Tenants

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has released information for landlords and tenants affected by the Merrimack Valley Gas Emergency, which can be viewed in full here. 

As a first step, the Attorney General’s Office encourages landlords and tenants to discuss the situation and work cooperatively to try to resolve issues. Landlords and tenants should discuss what claims each can make with Columbia Gas. For example, landlords should file claims for lost rent with Columbia Gas. Neither landlords nor tenants should suffer any financial loss. Columbia Gas is responsible for all losses caused by the gas explosions.

Tenants and landlords should be aware of their rights, duties, and protections under Massachusetts law. Tenants or landlords who are having problems can call the Attorney General’s Merrimack Valley Hotline at 617-573-5370 for help. Affected residents can request temporary alternative housing by calling Columbia Gas at 1-800-590-5571.

Self Mitigation Information

Columbia Gas has provided information on how residents can expedite the gas disaster mitigation process on their own.

For those who decide to go about repairing or replacing their own appliances, there are several steps that the utility has provided for residents interested in doing so.

To read the Columbia Gas mailer being sent to customers in full, click here.

The steps for self mitigation and restoration outlined in the mailer are:

  • Contact Columbia Gas and make the claims adjuster assigned to your case aware of your intention to self mitigate. Adjusters will walk residents and business owners through the process, including briefing them on the information they’ll need for later reimbursement. The Columbia Gas claims phone number is 1-800-590-5571.
  • Hire only licensed installers, who must obtain appropriate permits from the Town of Andover in order to complete the work. Work may include pressure testing, repair and replacement of gas lines, extension of outside gas lines, installation of appliances and completion of a town inspection. Once all of that work is completed, gas service may be restored to individual homes.
  • Work with a claims adjuster to purchase replacement equipment and appliances. Columbia Gas will reimburse customers for reasonable replacement costs of like kind and quality appliances, including making payments on their behalf or paying customers back for out-of-pocket costs.
  • Install equipment and appliances, and complete inspection. Once installation is complete, licensed installers will arrange a town inspection. Only work that has been appropriately permitted prior to completion will be eligible for an inspection.
  • Contact Columbia Gas for service restoration. Once inspections are complete, customers will receive either a green “house ready” tag, or an orange “house ready” tag depending on a home’s level of readiness for service restoration. To have service restored following self mitigation work, call 1-866-388-3239.

Save the Date: Holiday Happenings

Andover will celebrate its annual Holiday Happenings event on Friday, Dec. 7 from 4-8 p.m. The event will feature a variety of activities, including photos with Santa, carnival and train rides, shopping, dining, fireworks and more.

The event will be held across a variety of locations throughout downtown, including Old Town Hall, Memorial Hall Library, Andover Historical Society, Center at Punchard and the park at Chesnut and Bartlet Street.

Alternative Housing 

Andover residents still have the option to seek free alternative housing while their gas service remains offline. Housing options include apartments, hotels and temporary trailers, and are completely paid for by Columbia Gas.

As of Thursday, 557 Andover residents were being lodged in alternate housing arrangements, including apartments, hotels and RVs.

Impacted Columbia Gas customers who choose to be placed in alternative housing while their homes are without gas should call Columbia Gas’ Claims line: 800-590-5571.

Transportation arrangements will be provided for residents staying in hotels and apartments who do not have their own means of transportation.

A congregate shelter has been established for those in need. It is capable of hosting up to 1,000 people and will have hot meals available. The shelter is located at 46 Stafford St., Lawrence.

The congregate shelter has been established as a warming center with showers, and can accommodate residents for short-term overnight stays.

“Back to Business”

Columbia Gas has developed an integrated process to quickly restore business customers. The “Back-to-Business” initiative will assign a project manager to each business owner who will be responsible for addressing the businesses’ unique needs in order to make the business ready to receive natural gas. The project managers will proactively reach out to business owners to introduce themselves and will begin visiting businesses in the coming days.

Back to Business Centers

Under the direction of each project manager will be a fully integrated team including claims adjusters, plumbers, laborers and electricians to quickly restore business customers.

The “Back-to-Business” initiative’s integrated teams will work out of three business centers, located in each of the affected communities.  These centers will serve as the operation center for construction operations managers, claims representatives and linguists, and will work to build customized plans for each business based on their assessed needs.  While business owners will be hearing from their project manager proactively, these centers are open to the public should business owners choose to visit them during the claims and recovery process.

The locations of the “Back-to-Business” Centers are:

  • 439 South Union St., Lawrence: Construction Operations Manager Derrick Seitz
  • 45 Main St., Andover: Construction Operations Manager Jeff McCaples
  • 115 South Main St., North Andover: Construction Operations Manager Charlie Romano

The centers will be open from Tuesday to Friday from noon-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To view businesses in Andover that are located in the affected and are currently open for business visit: www.andoverma.gov/andoverbiz 

###