New Gas Leak Detected in Boston Area 2 Days After Fatal Explosions

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It appeared yesterday that faulty pressure in the Columbia Gas mains may have caused the explosions, which set 60 houses alight in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, north of Boston, on Thursday.

An investigation into what caused the fires and blasts remains underway, but on Saturday, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that a pipeline controller in Columbus, Ohio, noticed a pressure increase in a pipeline in Lawrence.

The local utility in that area shut down all power in the three towns for the gas lines to be depressurized.

"It looked like Armageddon, it really did", said Andover Fire Rescue Chief Michael B. Mansfield.

Authorities are placing the blame on over-pressurized natural gas lines. Leonel Rondon, 18, died after a chimney fell on his auto in Lawrence.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera blasted Columbia's response in a news conference Friday, saying the company was the "last to act" and accused the company of not wanting to "foot the bill".

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Police and fire personnel, as well as 120 utility representatives, will be on standby as people return to their homes, the governor said.

CreditSights Inc. analysts said Friday in a note that the MA incident "appears to have been caused by the utility working on the gas lines immediately before the explosions occurred".

The Red Cross reported Friday that about 400 people were staying in shelters.

Government records reveal at least three other serious explosions in Massachusetts, West Virginia and OH that are all linked to Columbia Gas. "We do it electronically; we do it physically", said Don Rendell, the president and CEO of Vermont Gas.

Sumwalt said NTSB investigators expect to be on site up to 10 days but a final report about what happened could take up to two years to complete.

Federal and state officials are investigating.

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