On Fifth Anniversary of Gas Fires and Explosions, Legislators Call for Enforcement of New Safety Law

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, second from left, with Gov. Charlie Baker and leaders from Andover and North Andover during a press conference in the wake of the September 2018 explosions and fires across the Merrimack Valley. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

On yesterday’s fifth anniversary of natural gas fires and explosions that rocked Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, members of the state’s federal legislative delegation called on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to “strongly implement” the safeguards included in the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act.

The act, which became law in 2020, is named for 18-year-old Rondon who was killed after one of the 2018 explosions. It includes reforms to pipeline safety standards to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

Sens. Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Reps. Lori Trahan and Seth Moulton signed a letter urging enforcement of the law, which requires qualified employees approve any changes to pipeline systems and monitor gas system pressure on-site during construction.

“Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Merrimack Valley natural gas distribution system disaster. On that day, the unimaginable struck the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, when a series of natural gas explosions claimed the life of 18-year-old Leonel Rondon, injured more than 20 people and led 50,000 residents to be asked to evacuate across the region,” the lawmakers wrote.

More than 100 homes and businesses across the region were damaged, and tens of thousands of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover residents were forced to evacuate.

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