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Brockton Mayor Furious After Latest Round Of Manhole Explosions

BROCKTON (CBS) – Manhole explosions knocked out power in downtown Brockton early Friday morning and the mayor is furious about it.

Twelve explosions from two manholes near School and Montello streets caused about 1,400 customers to lose electricity just after midnight, including City Hall, according to Mayor Bill Carpenter.

"Fire department responded, found the first manhole had blown out, cover blown out into pieces, fire in the hole. As they were responding to that, literally as they were pulling up to respond to that, the second manhole just to the right of us here exploded," the mayor said.

"We had a very close call with a firefighter, the firefighters were just getting off the truck and we had one of our guys standing maybe two feet from that manhole when it went off. Fortunately, the cover went in the other direction but had it come his direction he could have been seriously injured or killed."

The explosions also forced the fire department to ventilate the Chamber of Commerce building and another business because of carbon monoxide fumes.

No one was hurt. National Grid cut power to several blocks downtown and several streets in the area were closed to traffic while repairs were done.

brockton manhole explosions
The manhole explosions knocked out power in downtown Brockton early Friday. (Photo credit: Mayor Bill Carpenter)

Power was restored just before 7 a.m.  National Grid said the explosions were caused by a damaged underground secondary cable.

"We believe it's old wiring like this happened in the past," Mayor Carpenter said. "This is the third time and the third incidence of a manhole explosion downtown here within the last three years. I'm not very happy this morning. We were assured after the second event in January of '17 that National Grid was completing extensive repairs and replacement, took them several months, they told me this could never happen again."

There were similar explosions in Brockton back in 2016.

National Grid said the area where Friday's explosions happened is part of a "$7.2 million planned investment to Brockton's electrical infrastructure downtown" along with another $1 million they've spent in recent years.

Brockton is home to the oldest power station in the state, Thomas Edison helped build it in 1883.

The downtown area of Brockton has been growing economically, and business leaders want that trend to continue.

"All of New England, now that you think about it, is pretty old. The systems, the utility systems are pretty old. In order to do business, that kind of comes with the territory," said Robert Jenkins of the Brockton Redevelopment Authority.

Carpenter said the city is fortunate the explosions occurred at night. "This is a very busy intersection, there's a lot of people walking in the middle of the day. I worry about what happens if the next one happens when there are, when it's active and there are people nearby."

He wants the utility company to make changes before someone is killed but said the city does not have the authority to force National Grid to fix the problem. Therefore they are reaching out to the state to get them to step in.

"Half a dozen explosions is half a dozen too many for me," Carpenter said.


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