The third deadly natural gas explosion in as many months in this region is raising questions about the age and condition of pipeline infrastructure and safety inspections. Dana from Waltham asks: “What the infrastructure of gas lines look like underground? It seems as if there could be a larger problem with corroded pipes.”
There are 19,000 miles of gas mains across Massachusetts and 1.3 million service lines going into homes and businesses.
WBZ’s Ron Sanders found, as those kind of questions are being asked, firefighters are not taking any chances.
ROXBURY GAS CALL
Evacuation of two apartment buildings in Roxbury was prompted by a reported odor of gas Tuesday morning, only hours after a fatal house explosion in Manchester, only days after another in Somerset. Boston fire officials say their call turned out to be a small electrical fire with no gas reading but they’re especially attuned to recent events. “The infrastructure of the gas is old and any report of a gas in a building like that is taken, obviously, very seriously. We’ve seen what happens in these other cities and towns and obviously we want to take all precautions so that doesn’t happen in the City of Boston,” explained District Chief Robert Dowling.
WAKEFIELD’S NATURAL GAS INSPECTIONS
Eugene Sullivan is Assistant Manager of the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department which has its own safety and inspection program, regulated by the state Department of Public Utilities. “The entire natural gas system will be inspected once a year on street level. Our own trucks have these flame ionization units in them that can detect leaks and they’re always on the streets,” said Sullivan.
“It’s a very expensive piece of equipment. It’s calibrated every few months,” said Maintenance worker Dan Conroy, cleaning sediment from a gas valve. “So if there was ever an emergency, we’d be able to shut down a certain area.”
Older systems have cast iron pipe. Sullivan said most of Wakefield’s has been replaced with plastic. “We do everything we’re required to do plus a lot more.”
One of the reasons officials in Wakefield say their operation is safer than most is because each of them lives in Wakefield and has a vested interest in keeping it safe.
Wakefield has one of the four municipal gas departments in Massachusetts. It dates back to 1894 and its assistant manager says it has never had an accident.
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