NTSB Issues Urgent Safety Recommendations to Columba Gas Two Months After Valley Disaster

Andover Police worked in concert with gas technicians to assist residents in the wake of the Merrimack Valley gas-related fire disaster. (Courtesy photograph)

The National Transportation Safety Board issued safety suggestions to Columbia Gas parent company NiSource Thursday. (Courtesy file photograph)

As the cleanup from the Sept. 13 Merrimack Valley gas disaster continues, the National Transportation Safety Board Thursday issued five urgent recommendations to both the Commonwealth and Columbia Gas parent company NiSource.

In the wake of the gas-related explosions that killed a Lawrence man and left 21 others injured, Columbia has vowed to invest $150 million into a new over-pressurization protection system to mitigate issues like those that occurred in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

The company’s decision to implement the circuit breaker-style devices directly addresses the NTSB’s request to continually monitor gas main pressures and place assets “at critical locations to immediately shut down the system if abnormal operations are detected.”

Columbia Gas has also conducted a field survey of regulator stations and is working to upgrade maps of low-pressure regulator stations, the company said.

In Thursday’s safety summary, the NTSB also recommended the Commonwealth require a licensed engineer to sign off on all public utility drawings to vouch for accuracy.

Nearly 1,800 families across the region remain in temporary housing, according to figures released Friday morning by Columbia Gas. Ongoing repairs are anticipated to take place on Thanksgiving Day, the company said. Workers were originally scheduled to have the day off, but a plea from Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera put them back on the clock.