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Springfield Settles With Utility Over Explosion

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Crews were working to find an exact cause of an explosion in Springfield.

Crews were working to find an exact cause of an explosion in Springfield.

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — The city of Springfield has reached a $650,000 agreement with a utility for costs associated with natural gas explosion last November that destroyed an adult entertainment club and injured 18 people, Mayor Dominic Sarno said Thursday.

The explosion on Nov. 23 was caused when a Columbia Gas employee accidentally punctured a gas line while probing for a leak. The blast destroyed a strip club and damaged about 40 other buildings. Some of the people living in more than 100 residential units were displaced. Sidewalks and streets also were damaged.

The settlement represents compensation for the property damage and other expenses.

It does not include repayments for open claims for wages and medical bills. Those are being processed on a case-by-case basis.

“This figure is very close to everything the city has alleged liability for, and we think it is fair,” city attorney John Liebel said.

The settlement is a chance to improve the city, Sarno said.

“Out of this tragedy comes an opportunity; this is the beginning of a revitalization of a significant section of downtown Springfield,” he said.

Additionally, the Columbia Gas Foundation will provide a $200,000 grant to the city to use in planning efforts and costs related to urban renewal plans in the affected area.

“We appreciate Mayor Sarno and his team for working with us in an honest and fair manner,” Columbia spokeswoman Sheila Doiron said.

The company has reviewed its safety procedures since the explosion, but thinks it was an isolated incident, she said.

The state fire marshal attributed the explosion to human error, saying a gas company worker looking for a leak accidentally pierced a gas line with a long metal tool, causing a gas build up that ignited in the building housing the Scores Gentleman’s Club. The error was caused by dated surface markings.

The worker immediately alerted authorities and the area was evacuated, probably saving lives.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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