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Columbia Gas agrees to plead guilty to federal charges over Merrimack Valley gas explosions

The FBI’s Boston division said in a tweet that the company would be held “criminally & financially accountable"

Boston 25 News

Columbia Gas, the company involved in the deadly fires and explosions in the Merrimack Valley in 2018, has agreed to plead guilty to violating the Pipeline Safety Act, according to federal investigators in Boston.

The announcement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston comes after more than a year of investigations into the disaster that took the life of a Lawrence teen.

Leonel Rondon was killed when a chimney from a house explosion fell on his car while sitting in a driveway on Chickering Road. The explosion, along with dozens of others, was caused by an overloaded gas line when improperly-written instructions were followed during maintenance in the area, according to a review by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A contractor crew was working on replacing an old cast-iron main that dates back to the 1950s. When the crew disconnected the old main, the NTSB says they were not told to disconnect the sensor. That sensor, being disconnected from the system and sensing no gas moving through it, triggered the regulator stations to increase pressure on the system, according to the report.

In a statement after the plea agreement was announced, Columbia Gas said, “We take full responsibility for the tragic events of September 13, 2018 that so impacted our customers throughout the Merrimack Valley.”



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