Photo: 200115-news-gasfolow

From left, Unitil spokesman Alec O'Meara, Salem Deputy Police Chief Joel Dolan, Fire Chief Lawrence Best and Director of Municipal Services Roy Sorenson report Monday on a gas leak in town.

SALEM — Utility technicians worked through Monday night and into Tuesday to restore natural gas service to more than 330 customers in Salem who lost service after construction crews on Route 28 breached a major gas main.

Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Emanuelson said by 10:30 p.m. Monday night, service was restored to some of the buildings deemed “critical facilities,” such as three senior assisted living facilities, town hall, the high school, middle school, a fire station and some large multi-family apartment buildings.

By 6 a.m. Tuesday, 70 customers were still waiting to be restored, and by 2:30 p.m., that work was complete.

Major repairs to the gas main were completed by about 7 p.m. Monday night, and Route 28 was opened to normal traffic shortly after that. Construction crews got back to work as usual on Tuesday.

Most of what Unitil had to do after that was going door-to-door to re-light the pilots in individual homes and businesses.

“They don’t want free flowing gas inside the home, obviously, or the business,” Emanuelson said.

For example, technicians had to visit at least 135 units individually at a 55-and-older, three-building condo complex called The Club at Meadowbrook at 5 Sally Sweets Way Monday evening around 11 p.m.

Businesses like Maddie’s Bagel and Eatery and McKinnon’s Supermarket on North Broadway were restored first thing in the morning around 5 or 6 a.m., Emanuelson said.

Unitil would leave cards with contact info on the doors of any unoccupied homes or businesses for owners to arrange a technician visit, he said.

“Unitil was excellent throughout the whole thing. They really were responsive to everybody,” Emanuelson said.

Luckily, emergency services didn’t have to respond to any residents in distress as a direct result of the gas outage.

When the gas main was struck and services shut off pending repairs, the fire department had its hands full. In addition to responding to the gas line, firefighters were busy responding to 10 other emergencies Monday.

Mutual aid came from Windham, Pelham and Derry to provide station coverage during that time.

Director of Municipal Services Roy Sorenson told reporters Monday that the cause of the break was likely the result of an incorrectly marked gas line location. He said the contractors operating the excavator do not appear to be at fault.

The construction was part of the Route 28 project, which is widening the roadway in some sections, installing new sewer and water lines and installing a major culvert replacement. Sorenson said they have had to relocate some gas lines throughout the two-year project and they’ll be evaluating possibly doing that again in this northern section of the road as well.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020