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Lawrence Mayor: It's 'Ludicrous' Columbia Gas Must Now Inspect Hundreds Of Abandoned Lines

LAWRENCE (CBS) – Columbia Gas employees will be back in the Merrimack Valley for more inspections, almost one year to the day after gas explosions rocked the community and killed a teenager.

The company announced Thursday that it has to re-inspect 700 customers' inactive gas lines after it discovered some might not be compliant with state regulations. The old lines were abandoned during the restoration process, as Columbia installed 48 miles of new pipeline in the Merrimack Valley.

"Columbia Gas recently identified some instances of noncompliance with Massachusetts requirements related to the process of abandoning service lines, the inactive gas piping that connected a customer's facilities to the old gas system," the company wrote in a press release.

Full List: Lawrence, North Andover Service Line Information

The gas company will call customers individually to set up appointments for inspection. It insists there is no public safety issue, and that the inspections are out of an "abundance of caution."

"Everybody is absolutely safe," said Columbia spokesperson Scott Ferson. "The work that's being done is on the abandoned lines, so it is in no way a safety issue."

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, however, believes Columbia Gas doesn't get to determine what is and is not a safety issue.

"Even if they decided it wasn't a matter of public safety, that isn't their decision to make," he said, adding, "It always begs the question - if they missed this, what else did they miss?"

Full List: Impacted Streets

Rivera says he was alerted to the issue on September 11, but was told by Columbia that the company knew as early as July 30, but instead waited until it was almost the first anniversary of the explosions to tell residents.

"They shouldn't have waited this long, and frankly, I think they should be fined for that," Rivera said.

There are about 400 impacted customers in Lawrence, about 170 in Andover, and the rest in North Andover.

A released list of impacted homes can be found here.

"Winter is coming. And we're going to be in people's homes? It's ludicrous," said Rivera.

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