Federal assistance is critically needed to help the Commonwealth repair and replace infrastructure destroyed by explosions and restore gas service
Washington, DC - United States Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, today in sending a letter to President Trump in support of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration following the Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions on September 13, 2018. The disaster impacted thousands of residents and businesses in the communities of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, and has placed a significant hardship on the region. A Major Disaster Declaration would help Massachusetts cover many of the costs associated with emergency management.
Joining the Senators in sending the letter are Representatives Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), William Keating (D-Mass.), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).
“These communities and the Commonwealth have incurred significant disaster response and recovery costs as a result of the short- and long-term problems associated with the Columbia Gas pipeline over-pressurization,” wrote the members of the Massachusetts delegation. “Federal assistance is critically needed to help the Commonwealth repair and replace infrastructure destroyed by explosions and restore gas service. We respectfully urge your timely approval of this request and we thank you in advance for your fair and full consideration.”
On September 13, 2018, a pipeline operated by Columbia Gas became over-pressurized, causing three explosions, triggering dozens of structure fires, and leaving at least 19 homes permanently uninhabitable. Thousands of residents in these communities were forced to immediately evacuate. The disaster injured 25 people, including first responders, and killed one person – an 18-year-old named Leonel Rondon. Residents were not allowed to return to their homes for several days, and the region remains without gas service. According to Columbia Gas over 7,700 individuals have required alternative housing during the recovery period, including 2,683 children.
That same day, a Unified Command Center was established in the City of Lawrence to coordinate emergency response activities across the three communities. Emergency teams immediately began working around the clock to ensure safe conditions, including firefighters from 180 different municipalities and more than 660 law enforcement personnel from 140 different police departments. Local organizations including the American Red Cross and Salvation Army also assisted residents by serving more than 9,500 meals and providing temporary shelter until residents could safely return home. To date, local, regional, and state entities who participated in these emergency response efforts have spent $2.7 million.
The Recovery Team has determined that full restoration of the residential units and businesses will require replacing 48 miles of pipeline and the assessment and possible replacement of 5,086 service lines and the gas meters, lines, boilers, and furnaces of 7,300 residential units and 685 businesses.
A federal Major Disaster Declaration would make Massachusetts eligible for federal reimbursement for costs associated with emergency response, including police, fire, and EMS emergency response costs, and costs associated with evacuating residents and providing shelter.