LAWRENCE (CBS) – The president of Columbia Gas defended his company’s response after being criticized following gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley.
President Steve Bryant said that as of 3 p.m. Friday gas service has been shut off to homes in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence. He anticipates it will take until Saturday or Sunday to shut off service to an additional 5,000 customers.
A total of 107 contractors and 189 Columbia Gas employees were working to shut off gas to homes as of 4 p.m.
“We’ve advanced this as rapidly as it could possibly be advanced. I don’t think anyone else managing this would be further down the road than we are at the moment,” Bryant said in the company’s first public remarks since the Thursday night incident.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency earlier int he afternoon. As part of the declaration, the Department of Public Utilities removed Columbia Gas as the lead in recovery efforts and promoted Eversource to that role.
“I respect the governor’s judgement,” Bryant said. “The governor has the same interest as we do. We want to restore service to these customers.”
Bryant’s comments came after Baker and Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera held a press conference criticizing the Columbia Gas response.
“The least informed and the last to act has been Columbia Gas,” said Rivera during the press conference, adding “They’re hiding from the problem.”
Columbia Gas has set up a claims hotline for customers. Anyone impacted by the explosions and fires should call 1 (800) 590-5571.