EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 11, 2014

Editorial: Investigation into gas main break is welcome


Saccone told reporter Bill Kirk the lines spray-painted on the street by Dig Safe indicate that the gas line runs along the edge of the roadway. But, he said, the excavator was digging in the middle of the street when it hit the gas line.

“They were about 30 inches off,” he said. “More importantly, there was no indication in the markings of four 45-degree bends in the pipe. They went out and around something. The gas pipe was running along the edge of road, then bumped out into middle of the road. The marks that are there now can’t be right.”

Saccone said he was irritated that the Columbia Gas spokeswoman accused his company of hitting the gas line.

“They shouldn’t be pointing fingers,” he told Kirk, adding that the sewer line is going to have to be re-designed and re-engineered. “The engineer would never have located that sewer line there if he knew the gas pipe was there. I don’t know who’s to blame, or why it was the way it was. I’m just glad nobody got hurt.”

Redesigning the sewer line isn’t the only expense that will result from the accident.

Andover Fire Chief Mike Mansfield told Kirk a large volume of natural gas escaped into the atmosphere.

“Somebody is going to have to pay for that,” he said, adding that the value of the lost natural gas is likely to be well into six-figures.

The gas leak also shut down traffic on busy River Road for more than 24 hours while gas company crews repaired the pipe and paving contractors resurfaced the road.

The Department of Public Utilities will examine documentation on the location of underground utilities in the area and the markings on the street. The investigation could result in civil fines and penalties for the responsible party.

Significant fines would be appropriate here. While the gas main rupture caused only inconvenience and not injuries, the potential for a major, life-threatening disaster here was high.

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