The residents of a small part of eastern Massachusetts were shaken by an natural gas disaster. The people of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover just south of the New Hampshire border, witnessed dozens of homes explode last Thursday, while homeowners rushed to evacuate and turn off the gas. State and federal authorities are investigating after at least 60 fires and explosions traced to gas lines erupted Thursday, killing an 18-year-old man and injuring multiple people.
The reason for this incident: too much natural gas was pumped into a section of pipe owned by Columbia Gas, causing the combustible fuel to leak into homes, authorities said Sunday. The National Transportation Safety Board “can confirm at this time that this was indeed an overpressure situation,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at news briefing.
This violent tragedy hits a region that is already struggling to provide for its own energy needs. For several years now, local and state governments in New England, particularly in Massachusetts, have been fighting the construction of new natural gas pipelines. The argument against new pipelines has been an environmental one spiced with fears of disaster. Thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines in Massachusetts are leak-prone and need repair, utilities have told state regulators, highlighting aging energy infrastructure risks.
What happened in Massachusetts is not something previously experienced. Such a fatal incident has been unprecedented, until now.