Columbia Gas said it expects to have boilers and furnaces replaced in homes affected by the Merrimack Valley gas disaster before the state's Oct. 31, 2019, deadline.

On Monday, the Department of Public Utilities ordered Columbia Gas to complete remaining restoration efforts from the Sept. 13 gas disaster — including repaving roads, restoring sidewalks and replacing heating appliances that were initially just repaired — by next fall.

Spokesman Scott Ferson said Tuesday the gas company is “committed to continuing its restoration efforts in the Merrimack Valley” and expects to meet at least one of those goals ahead of schedule.

With 45 miles of gas pipeline replaced and service restored to nearly all residential and business meters, Ferson said “the restoration effort is now transitioning to its next phase, which includes paving roads, providing customers with a no-cost equipment repair program so that they need not worry about breakdowns of equipment that was installed or repaired, and returning after the end of the heating season to replace any boiler or furnace that was repaired during the restoration phase.”

Approximately 900 homes have furnaces or boilers that were simply repaired rather than replaced in the rush to restore gas service first by Nov. 19 and then by Dec. 16.

While the repairs allowed families back into their homes as temperatures grew colder, Columbia Gas said it will fully replace the appliances once heating season is over, and expects to accomplish the task “even sooner” than Oct. 31, Ferson said.

Columbia Gas has also committed to a no-cost repair program through May 2020 for any gas-related equipment installed or repaired in customers' homes, including boilers, furnaces, hot water heaters, ranges and dryers.

For business owners, repairs will be covered for one year after the date of installation.

As of Monday, fewer than 100 homes were without stoves or had work remaining to be done. Those were primarily customers who chose to self-mitigate separately from Columbia Gas contractors, or whose homes were damaged from the gas fires and explosions.

Columbia Gas also said it will begin repaving roads and fixing sidewalks in the spring 2019, after coordinating with municipalities on traffic control and work zone safety.

As the restoration focus shifts, Chief Recovery Officer Joe Albanese is being phased out and Massachusetts-based Nitsch Engineering, which has offices in Lawrence, Boston and Worcester, will take on oversight of Columbia Gas' efforts by Dec. 21.

DPU said it will fine Columbia Gas up to $1 million per violation of its work orders.

Follow Lisa Kashinsky on Twitter @lisakashinsky.

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