Gas Pipeline Pressure Before Explosions Was 12 Times Too High

The pressure in the natural gas pipelines prior to a series of explosions and fires in Massachusetts last week that killed one person and injured more than two dozen was 12 times higher than it should have been.

The information was contained in a letter from the state's U.S. senators to the heads of Columbia Gas, the company that serves the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, and NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas.

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey sent the letter Monday seeking answers to questions about the explosions.

The letter says, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, "the pressure in the system should have been around 0.5 pounds per square inch, but readings in the area reached at least 6 PSI."

The cause remains under investigation, but early reports indicate over-pressurized gas lines are to blame.

$10 Million Donation

In addition, Columbia Gas President Stephen Bryant announced Tuesday at a news conference attended by Gov. Charlie Baker and leaders of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover that the utility is donating $10 million to a relief fund.

The Republican governor said the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund will help residents of the three communities with food, housing and other immediate needs as they recover from last Thursday's explosions fires.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, who has been highly critical of Columbia Gas, said the utility is "living up to their corporate responsibility" with the donation.

With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom

This article was originally published on September 18, 2018.

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