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Mass. utility sued over gas explosions


September 18. 2018 10:21PM
A sign marks a Columbia Gas of Massachusetts facility. The utility is under investigation after dozens of explosions and fires were triggered last week in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover, Mass. (REUTERS)

BOSTON — A resident of a Massachusetts city rocked by gas blasts that damaged dozens of homes sued utility operator NiSource Inc on Tuesday, accusing it of inadequately maintaining its distribution system.

The proposed class-action lawsuit targets NiSource and its subsidiary Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, which serves Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.

The three communities had to stage large-scale evacuations after last Thursday’s blasts, which killed one person, injured at least 25 and sparked dozens of fires.

The lawsuit in Essex County Superior Court is the first to be filed after the explosions. It claims the gas pipeline system used by Columbia Gas to service those communities was “poorly maintained, antiquated, obsolete, and highly dangerous.”

Merrillville, Indiana-based NiSource did not respond to a request for comment. It has set up a phone center and an office to accept residents’ claims for property damage and costs related to the fires and evacuation.

The lawsuit said the company failed to implement reasonable safety and leak prevention practices and failed to replace obsolete high-risk materials in the system, which used pipelines constructed of cast and wrought iron rather than plastic.

The complaint, filed by Lawrence resident Francely Acosta, who was forced to evacuate, accused NiSource of negligence and creating a public nuisance by failing to maintain gas pressure in its “antiquated” system.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages on behalf of residents affected by the incident and an order requiring NiSource to stop operating its system in an unsafe manner.

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