State officials and Columbia Gas announced Friday they are pushing back the utility's original deadline to restore all heat and hot water to homes and businesses in the Merrimack Valley to Dec. 16.
Columbia Gas initially promised to restore services in the wake of last month's gas explosions in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover by Nov. 19.
Joe Albanese, the chief recovery officer appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to oversee the recovery efforts, said Columbia Gas expects to have heat and hot water back on for most customers before that date, and that the utility is prioritizing fixing boilers and furnaces.
"Connecting houses again has not progressed as quickly as they would have liked," Baker told reporters during the announcement.
The Republican governor urged people affected by the service disruptions to take advantage of housing alternatives offered by Columbia Gas and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
The utility said obstacles like having to make repairs to old housing have caused delays.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said in the meanwhile Columbia Gas needs to do better at taking care of the people affected.
"They need to cut checks faster," he said. "The amount of time people are waiting to get reimbursed for items that they are spending every day and that businesses are waiting to get their lives back in order is unacceptable.”
Baker said there will be 1,400 workers in the field next week working on restoration efforts.
As of Friday, Columbia Gas said it was 95 percent done replacing 45 miles of main pipeline, and about two-thirds through replacing 6,100 service lines to affected homes and businesses.
This article was originally published on October 26, 2018.
This segment aired on October 26, 2018.