Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency for the communities that experienced several dozen explosions and fires throughout the state. It is being reported that over fire crews responded to at least 60 incidents and 39 homes were on fire during the Thursday evening blasts. One person was killed and dozens more were injured.
Tensions against the area’s natural gas provider, Columbia Gas, grew as Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera accused the company of operating slowly in their response to the disaster. Earlier today, we reported that NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas, has a history of responding slowly to disasters involving its infrastructure.
Rivera slammed the company when he stated, “Since we first got word of this incident, the least informed and last to act has been Columbia Gas,” during a Friday afternoon press conference. State officials have become so displeased at Columbia Gas that they have removed the company from managing the disaster. Instead, New England gas provider Eversource will now be handling the operations relating to investigation and repair.
Columbia Gas’ Aging Infrastructure
The Massachusetts area has some of the oldest pipelines in the nation. According to a recent analysis by USA Today, the region has more iron gas pipe, which is prone to explosion, than almost anywhere else in the nation. In spring of 2018, Columbia Gas announced that 15 percent of its infrastructure consists of dated and dangerous iron piping. This percentage is roughly double of other operators' infrastructures.
Expert Says Gas Pipeline is Likely Cause for the Explosions
Though no official cause has been determined, all evidence is pointing towards natural gas pipes being the root of the destructive and deadly events of Thursday night. State officials and the National Transportation Safety Administration have focused on investigating Columbia Gas’ pipelines that serve each of the three neighborhoods where explosions occurred.
Robert Jackson, a professor of energy and environmental science at Stanford University, was quoted in The Atlantic calling the incident “unprecedented in recent years.” When asked about the likelihood that the accident was caused by a natural gas pipeline, Jackson replied, “I can’t imagine another explanation for this event than a flush of pressurized gas.”
Jackson suggested that aging infrastructure is not the only likely cause of these explosions. In further comments, he went on to state that this tragedy could be a result of the operation of crucial valves which separate pipelines with varying levels of pressure. Jackson said a failure at this level is caused if “somebody made a mistake. To flip the wrong valve, leave a junction open. Human error is the most common source of natural gas explosions.”
The Massachusetts gas explosion lawyers at Arnold & Itkin encourage a thorough investigation so that hurting residents in the Merrimack Valley receive answers in a timely manner.