Massachusetts gas explosions: Residents allowed to return to homes

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In April this year, NiSource's Columbia Gas of MA filed a petition with the state's Department of Public Utilities to increase annual revenues in order to help the company replace aging infrastructure. Numerous pipes are old, and utilities are in various stages of replacing them to improve safety. As residents recover from Thursday's stunning explosions in Lawrence, Mass., many wonder what they can do to protect themselves.

On Thursday, dozens of explosions and fires broke out in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover due to an over-pressurized gas line.

"Our focus today and in the coming days is to support the Merrimack Valley and ensure the safety of the communities that we serve", he said. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate. The company had said before the releases that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the affected suburbs.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel found deep beneath the earth's surface that's mostly made up of methane.

Displaced residents were able to return home Sunday, but restoring gas service to affected homes will take longer.

Sumwalt said the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the gas companies will make that decision, not the NTSB. Residents should contact authorities if they smell gas, or notice fire-related damage or anything odd with their gas appliances, he said. A review by the National Transportation Safety Board later found that several sections of pipe near the incident site failed pressure tests.

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Columbia Gas has released a statement - almost five hours after the initial explosion occurred.

Dozens of homes were destroyed or damaged, a teenager was killed and dozens of people were injured in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.

Utilities nationwide are continually replacing older pipelines made of cast iron or certain types of steel with newer steel or plastic pipes, according to the American Gas Association. All homes should have power restored by later in the morning, he said.

Joe Hamrock, the CEO of NiSource, said "it's heartbreaking to see this devastation and this tragedy".

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Friday in the three towns and put another utility company in charge of restoration efforts.

Columbia Gas Transmission was owned by NiSource until 2015, when the company was spun off into Columbia Pipeline Group.

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