Columbia Settles All Class Action Lawsuits Related to Merrimack Valley Gas Disaster

(File photograph)

In a new $143 million settlement, Columbia Gas announced Monday that all class action lawsuits have reached a resolution, nearly one year after the gas-related fire disaster ripped through the Merrimack Valley cities and towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Thousands of residents and businesses are named as plaintiffs in the suits, which were resolved through a voluntary mediation process, Columbia Gas parent company NiSource told WHAV in a statement Monday. The payout is part of the almost $1 billion in funds earmarked to address needs of affected customers and communities in the areas impacted by the Sept. 13 explosions that left thousands out of their homes and businesses shuttered for months.

NiSource President and CEO Joe Hamrock is pleased to bring closure to those affected. “What happened last September was tragic, and we will always be mindful of its impact on our customers and everyone in the communities we serve, including those represented by this settlement,” Hamrock said. “Today marks another important step forward, as we continue to fulfill our commitment to residents and businesses.”

Columbia Gas continues to manage and process claims with oversight of the mediator, until the court preliminarily approves the settlement, Hamrock said. At that time, a settlement claims administrator will take over and locals will be able to file claims that way. More information will be provided in the coming weeks, NiSource said.

This week’s agreement comes in the heels of an undisclosed settlement reached with the family of 18-year-old Lawrence teen Leonel Rondon, who was killed in the September 2018 explosion.

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