NTSB blames shoddy work at Columbia Gas for Lawrence-area disaster
Milton J. Valencia, Boston Globe
The natural gas disaster that shook the Merrimack Valley in September 2018 was preceded by mistakes within the utility Columbia Gas in the years before, including shoddy record-keeping that led to the omission of a key safety feature in a construction project, according to a federal investigation that placed the blame for the catastrophe squarely on the utility.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued its final findings Tuesday, concluding that Columbia Gas of Massachusetts had a “weak engineering management” system, where information about safety sensors was missing from construction plans, and company officials had to scramble to locate shut-off valves as more than 130 fires and explosions ripped through three communities on Sept. 13, 2018, killing one person and injuring two dozen.
The official findings were laid out during an NTSB hearing in Washington, D.C., at which board members and staff were critical of Columbia’s record-keeping, leading up to a tragedy that officials said could have been prevented if better safety systems were in place.
“The project was not done right. It was done wrong. The results . . . were catastrophic,” said NTSB chairman Robert L. Sumwalt