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Columbia Gas vows to meet Friday deadline - Threat of millions in fines hangs over utility company

by Bill Kirk, Eagle Tribune

With the threat of $1 million fines — per violation — hanging over them, Columbia Gas on Monday announced its plan to check 713 natural gas service lines throughout the Merrimack Valley by Friday as required by the state utility regulator.

On Oct. 1, the Department of Public Utilities ordered the gas company to check gas meters that had been moved from inside homes and businesses to the exterior of buildings.

When that switch was made, the company was supposed to have completed certain steps when abandoning old meters and the old services line that led into local buildings. The DPU ordered 713 lines to be checked by Friday and another 2,200 sites to be examined and stabilized by Nov. 15.

The company has until Friday to check the 713 sites. Most — 417 — are in Lawrence, while there are 176 in Andover and 120 in North Andover. Any of the work not done after that will subject the company to $1 million fines per violation.

According to a statement issued by Columbia Gas on Monday, “none of the 2,200 abandoned service lines that will be verified are connected to the active gas system. While Columbia Gas is not aware of any immediate safety concerns associated with these service lines, the company will continue to conduct continuous leak surveillance and remediation throughout the area.”

The company went on to say that it expects no problems.

“These verifications, as required by the DPU, will confirm that the work on these abandoned service lines was executed in a manner consistent with federal and state requirements and in compliance with CMA’s procedures and protocols,” the statement said.

The check of nearly 3,000 service lines follows a rebuild of the gas system in the wake of the 2018 gas disaster.


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