Where will the next gas pipeline explosion be?
Let’s hope it won’t be at or near 1277 Main Street in Warren near the Xtra Mart convenience store, where a National Grid pipeline has been leaking for several months, according to property owner Vincent Falkowski and other residents. On New Year’s Day the smell of natural gas was so strong that the Warren Fire Department closed a short stretch of Main Street, shut down the Xtra Mart for a while and evacuated several homes, including Falkowski’s painstakingly renovated duplex.
“I came home New Year’s Eve with celebration food and was told I couldn’t go into my house,” said Tom Mandigo, a tenant of Falkowski’s who has lived in the house for seven years. Because of the constant smell, Mandigo said, “The fire department’s been called 10 times since winter started.”
“It’s been ongoing for months,” Falkowski told the Advocate. “You could clearly smell it in the open air. The gas company didn’t tell me anything I had to hear it from my tenants when they had the police department saying, Everybody out now. The only thing the gas company has done is make holes down the middle of the street to let the gas escape.”
Adding to the anxiety of residents in Warren and all over the Valley is the natural gas explosion on Worthington Street in Springfield that destroyed a strip club and damaged dozens of other buildings the day after Thanksgiving. This stretch of pipeline in Warren, Falkowski said, “is located between a gas station on one side and a bus company with diesel fuel all over the place. I don’t want people to die. I don’t want to lose my property.”
Natural Grid spokesman David Graves told the Advocate that the company had repaired one leak in that part of Warren earlier in January, and that it planned to repair another leak there early next week.
A bill filed at the Statehouse by Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead would mandate a classification system and repair schedule for gas pipeline leaks, and require that those designated dangerous be repaired immediately. It passed the House in the last session, but was held up in the Senate. Ehrlich aide Thomas Mills told the Advocate the bill’s supporters would “swing for the fences again” with the hope of getting the bill passed early in the upcoming session. The bill, HD 1941, will get its start in the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, Mills said, and he urged members of the public to call their state legislators and insist that it be passed.