LAWRENCE (CBS) – Columbia Gas said Friday it hopes to have service fully restored to all customers by Nov. 19 after last week’s gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley. That news came as the governor announced that thousands of hot plates and space heaters will be handed out to impacted residents and businesses this weekend.
Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters at a late morning news conference that crews will be working over the next several days to provide the appliances and assistance to more than 8,600 impacted households and businesses.
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“Everyone’s top priority is safety. The team has devised a plan to meet all levels of safety,” Baker said.
NiSource President and CEO Joe Hamrock said Friday that Columbia Gas hopes to have service restored to all homes and businesses by Nov. 19, the first time the company announced an estimated date. NiSource is the parent company of Columbia Gas.
North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor called on Columbia Gas to cover the costs of converting gas water heaters to electric.
“Here is my position and I know the selectmen support me,” Maylor tweeted Friday night. “Columbia Gas MUST pay for properties in the impacted area to convert their gas water heaters to electric. This is not negotiable. Columbia…step up and make this happen. #getthemhotwater”
Maylor says the town has been asking for a week if Columbia will cover the costs of the conversion, but they have not received a clear answer.
That two-month wait has Emilio Nardozza worried.
“What would you do if you were living here?” he told WBZ-TV on Friday.
His neighbor, Joe Howshan, says he’ll manage. He is now boiling water on the grill for his bathtub.
“You gotta add an extra 15 minutes to a half-hour to your morning,” he said.
Starting on Saturday, impacted residents in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover will be provided with electric appliances and hot plates, Baker said.
On Monday, crews will be installing space heaters in homes and on Wednesday, crews will begin assessing damage at residences and workplaces, with plumbers and electricians determining which appliances will be replaced or repaired, the governor said.
Baker said he expects approximately 2,000 meters on the impacted gas line will be brought back to service in the next few weeks.
Moving forward, Joe Albanese, a retired captain of the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps, has been charged with overseeing the gas pipeline restoration project.
Albanese, who has worked as a Naval contractor in the Middle East among other assignments, is the founder and CEO of Commodore Construction in Massachusetts. As chief recovery officer for the Merrimack Valley project, Albanese will be responsible for command control and communications.
“Within two weeks, meters will begin to be energized,” Albanese said Friday.
Columbia Gas said previously that a shorter timeline was possible as it works to replace 48 miles of aging pipes and infrastructure.
On Friday, Baker said crews are working around the clock to restore the region.
“While the road to recovery is long, the team has made progress,” Baker said.