LAWRENCE (CBS) – As gas safety expert Bob Ackley drove around the Merrimack Valley Thursday, he was struck by what he did not see. “I don’t see any work being done,” he told WBZ.

Columbia Gas announced it has restored gas to more than 8,000 people outside the directly affected area, but on the streets most profoundly impacted, the only work in sight was a demolition crew taking down the home where a teenager lost his life in an explosion last week.

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Columbia Gas crew working in Lawrence (Image credit Lawrence PD)

“As I drove around North Andover and Andover, I saw no work being done. I’m in Lawrence now. I don’t see any work being done,” said Ackley.

He said Columbia’s new plan to replace 48 miles of aging gas lines with new safer ones in a matter of weeks, may not be realistic. “It’s just going to be a really long, tedious process to get that done,” Ackley said. “I’m not seeing any work and we’re in day six or seven now. We’d like to see some movement getting these mains in.”

Governor Charlie Baker steered clear of a hard timeline as he met with small business owners in North Andover. “You want to move quickly on this, but you want to make sure the people doing the work are the people who have the right credentials, and the right certifications, and the right skill sets to do it, and amassing those people takes a few days,” Baker said.

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Home destroyed on Chickering Road in Lawrence by gas explosion (WBZ-TV)

In Andover, crews set up portable showers for those without hot water, but as much as residents long for a return to basic comforts, they’re also worried about the fix.

“If they’re going do a rush job, can you trust them?” asked Linda Garcia.

“I’m afraid there are going to be more explosions soon as they turn it back on,” said Fred Pietrowski.

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Governor Baker said he’s confident the state can provide oversight to make sure the work is done safely, and said a schedule will be announced soon.

Christina Hager