LAWRENCE (CBS) – All Lawrence residents can return home and most had their gas and power fully restored by 10 p.m. Saturday, according to Columbia Gas.
“The team has made substantial progress since yesterday,” Columbia Gas of Massachusetts President Mark Kempic said. “Everybody will be safe.”
About 150 homes and businesses were evacuated in Lawrence around 3 a.m. Friday morning due to a major gas leak at South Broadway and Salem streets.
The leak affected Andover Street to Merrimack Street and Sandborn Street to Parker Street – the area also affected by the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions. There were no fires or explosions. One person was taken to the hospital for a possible heart attack.
The leak was caused by contractors working for the City of Lawrence who were checking water valves in preparation of road paving.
The contractors, “inadvertently closed a gas valve, puncturing an active gas main,” the Department of Public Utilities, Columbia Gas and the City of Lawrence said in a joint statement.
“Preliminarily, it appears that this gas valve should have been disabled as part of pipeline reconstruction in 2018 and was not compliant with DPU standards.”
“It’s clear to me that this castoff shouldn’t have been there,” said Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, who lives in the affected area. “I got woken up at 4 o’clock in the morning. It scared my wife and my kids,” Rivera said.
Rivera added that Columbia Gas needs to work on making customers feel safe and regaining their trust. “What are they going to do to help us feel safe? I don’t know if we’re ever going to get there.”
Since the leak, two more valves have been removed under the supervision of the state’s Department of Public Utilities and Columbia Gas is walking the gas line on foot to make sure there are no more issues. The state also oversaw a pressure test of the system and authorized the return to service. Work in response to the leak continued into Saturday night.
“We’re inspecting every last foot,” Kempic said. “I don’t care if it’s blue for water. I don’t care if it’s painted purple. I don’t care what it’s painted. We are looking for every single valve.”
Columbia Gas shut off service in the area and crews went door-to-door to the 150 customers while repairs were being done. The majority of people were able to return home with their services fully restored by 3 p.m. Columbia did provide hotels for 31 families who were unable to return to their homes Friday night.
Columbia Gas and city officials are urging everyone affected by the gas leak to return to their homes so gas workers can be admitted to relight the gas. South Bradway will remain closed between Merrimack and Andover streets until Sunday.
According to National Grid, more than 1,300 customers in the area lost power because electricity had to be shut off.
The issue has bled into the senate primary race between incumbent Ed Markey and Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, with both weighing in Saturday.
“The fact that something like this could happen because of a misstep by a worker and cause another panic like we’ve seen, it’s just inexcusable,” Kennedy said.
“We need answers,” Markey said.