Repair work after disaster

A utility crew from Columbia Gas covers a trench with a steel plate on East Water Street in North Andover in September during work to replace gas lines following the Sept. 13 natural gas disaster.

The Merrimack Valley gas disaster has cost Columbia Gas more than $1 billion, according to a financial report filed by Columbia's parent company.

In a 2018 financial report filed this week, NiSource, parent company of Columbia Gas, reported a loss of $757 million for third-party claims including property damage, and $266 million loss for other incident-related expenses.

The company wrote in the filing that it expects the financial losses to increase.

On Sept. 13, an over-pressurized natural gas line caused explosions and fires in homes and other buildings across Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, displacing thousands of residents and killing 18-year-old Leonel Rondon.

The amount of financial losses to the company does not include the estimated cost of pipeline replacement. The company spent $167 million replacing pipelines in the area in 2018, and estimates it will cost between $220 million and $230 million to complete the task, according to company officials.

The losses recorded in the filing also do not include the costs of settlements from lawsuits of the Rondon family or class-action settlements. 

The disaster remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Expenses from the incident have exceeded the insurance coverage for the company, according to the report.

"Total expenses related to the incident have exceeded the total amount of liability insurance coverage available under our policies," the company wrote in the financial report, noting the company may be unable to obtain insurance on acceptable terms.

"We expect the premiums we pay for our insurance coverage to significantly increase as a result of the Greater Lawrence Incident and market conditions," the report read.

Watch eagletribune.com for developments in this story and other fallout from the gas disaster. A complete report will appear in Friday's print edition of The Eagle-Tribune and at eagletribune.com.