FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, Sept. 17, 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 update residents on the status of restoration efforts in the aftermath of the Merrimack Valley gas emergency.
NiSource Inc., the parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, has notified the Towns of Andover and North Andover and the City of Lawrence that the company has 500 crews working to immediately restore natural gas service to those customers in the unaffected areas who turned off their service on Thursday as this emergency was unfolding.
“We have been informed by NiSource that these crews will work continuously until the work is done and all customers have service restored in the unaffected areas,” Chief Mansfield said. “We have been informed that this work is expected to be completed by midnight tonight.”
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 both replacing all damaged infrastructure and appliances and completely 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.
In a statement earlier today, NiSource announced that it is “developing a plan … to replace the entire affected 48-mile cast iron and bare steel pipeline system in the towns of Andover, Lawrence and North Andover with state-of-the-art plastic distribution mains and service lines, and modern safety features.”
The timeline for this work will not be measured in days but certainly in weeks and likely months. Therefore, after a meeting with municipal managers, emergency managers, and fire chiefs in the three affected communities, NiSource is currently working to provide temporary solutions for heat, hot water, and cooking gas for residents in the affected zones.
These solutions will not be electric space heaters or anything that presents a possible risk to public safety. More information is expected to be released shortly about these solutions.
“We are committed to ensuring that our residents and business owners are made whole again, but we are not going to do this in a manner that jeopardizes public safety,” Chief Mansfield said. “Our fire and building codes are still in effect, and they will be enforced.”
The Town of Andover is waiving permit fees for any 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 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. 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.
“The teamwork shown by all three communities, Governor Baker’s office, state and federal agencies, and cities and towns all over New England has been tremendous,” Town Manager Flanagan said. “We have received numerous inquiries from those seeking to help our residents and business community, and we are going to establish a single fund for all these donations, ensuring that they go where they are needed.”
Free Meals 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.
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, 30 Whittier Court.
Public Health Update
Director of Public Health Thomas Carbone and Assistant Director Joanne Belanger wish to acknowledge the work of Andover’s Greater River Valley Medical Reserve Corps, which is staffed 100 percent by volunteers including registered nurses, medical doctors, emergency medical technicians, behavioral health specialists, social workers and civilian non-medical volunteers.
Like all other agencies during this incident, the Greater River Valley Medical Reserve Corps also receive mutual aid. MRC agencies from Upper Merrimack Valley, Woburn, North Shore/Cape Ann, Topsfield Regional, Mystic Valley, Greater Fall River, and Greater New Bedford staffed the Andover Senior Center receiving center constantly during this emergency. Medical professionals and other volunteers worked 10 eight-hour shifts during the crisis.
“We are extremely grateful to everyone who volunteered their time and expertise to support the residents of our community in their time of need,” Director Carbone said.
Health Division staff are also working with affected restaurants to ensure they meet health and safety codes and are able to reopen. Mutual Aid resources from other communities are being used to assist in this workload.
Trash and Recycling Pickup
Director of Public Works Christopher Cronin: The Town of Andover is collecting trash and recycling on a holiday week schedule. Therefore, if your regular collection day is Friday, you will receive collection service on Monday. Monday service will be collected on Tuesday, Tuesday service will be collected on Wednesday, and so forth.
Republic Services understands that there will likely be increased rubbish volume this week, and all of that increased volume will be collected. Residents should make every reasonable effort to place trash bags in covered containers as always, in order to avoid litter. The town is coordinating with Republic Services to bring in additional resources if needed.
Residents with any questions are asked to refer to the Town of Andover website or call the Department of Public Works on Monday at 978-623-8700 and press 0 for the operator.
Loss and Damage Claims
Residents who were displaced by this weekend’s incident should make every effort to track the expenses they incurred — including documentation of damages, photographs, meals, hotel costs, spoiled food, lost wages or business income and other associated losses — in order to ease the process of seeking reimbursement from Columbia Gas.
The Town of Andover is in the process of opening an in-town claims center.
To initiate the claims process through Columbia Gas, please call 800-590-5571.
Updates will continue to be posted on the town’s official website at www.andoverma.gov and on the town’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.