Most residents return home after gas leak forces evacuations in Lawrence


LAWRENCE, Mass. (WPRI/AP) — Authorities say the majority of residents in a Massachusetts city affected by gas explosions and fires last year are back home after evacuating because of a natural gas leak.

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said Friday that electricity and gas are gradually being restored.

The leak was discovered around 3:15 a.m. Friday. About 150 homes were evacuated as a precaution. The Wetherbee School and the Lawrence Catholic Academy – which were also affected by the gas leak – were closed for the day.

Gov. Charlie Baker said state officials are still investigating, but are confident the leak is isolated and there was no immediate public safety risk.

Mark Kempic, president of Columbia Gas, said the leaky line was among miles of new pipelines the company has installed across the region to replace old cast iron pipes.

“We’ve had no fires, no explosions, we were able to shut it off,” Kempic said. “Our goal is to get into homes in partnership with the fire department to make sure all gas is off in the area. It is very important that customers don’t turn gas on and listen to instructions of emergency responders. The area is being ventilated.”

The evacuations come one year after several gas explosions tore through several parts of the Merrimack Valley, including Lawrence. A federal agency was recently discussing findings in that gas leak.

“I am done. Columbia Gas has blown me up again for another year,” John Farrington, owner of Carleen’s Coffee Shoppe said. “I am out of words. I am literally going out of business.”

Kempic said the utility company has repaired leaks since replacing gas lines following last September’s disaster, but nothing to this magnitude.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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