Columbia Gas Announces $143M Settlement In Merrimack Valley Disaster

chickering street collapse explosion gas fire merrimack valley

A home damaged in the September 13, 2018 gas disaster. (Karyn Regal/WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The utility company involved in the September 2018 fires and gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover has settled almost all class action lawsuits related to the incident.

Columbia Gas and its parent company, NiSource, announced the $143 million settlement in a release Monday morning.

"What happened last September was tragic, and we will always be mindful of its impact on our customers and everyone in the communities we serve, including those represented by this settlement,” Joe Hamrock, CEO and President of NiSource, said in the release. “Today marks another important step forward, as we continue to fulfill our commitment to residents and businesses. We are pleased that we have reached a resolution so swiftly, and we thank the mediator, as well as all involved who helped us achieve this result."

The explosions and fires on September 13, caused by over-pressurized gas mains, forced over 8,000 people out of their homes, killed 17-year-old Leonel Rondon, and injured about two dozen others. Thousands were left without heat and hot water for months as autumn slipped into winter.

The settlement is part of the approximately $1 billion already dedicated to victims. That amount covers several things: restoration and appliance installation in homes and businesses; the cost of temporary housing for affected customers; an $80 million settlement to Andover, Lawrence, and North Andover to reimburse them for roadway repairs; a settlement to the Figueroa family, several members of which were hurt in the disaster; and a settlement with Rondon's family.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the agency tasked with investigating gas incidents like this one, has yet to issue their final report on the incident.

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WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports

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