Norwich Public Utilities (NPU) is sending 13 employees to assist with the response to a series of natural gas explosions on Thursday evening in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, Massachusetts. Media reports indicate there were 60-80 fires and 40 homes damaged in the communities which are served by Columbia Gas.

Columbia Gas said that 8,600 individual natural gas meters had to be shut off and inspected as a result of last night’s incident. As of Friday morning, more than 5,000 Columbia Gas meters still had to be addressed.

NPU is a member of the Northeast Gas Association (NGA), a trade organization that is organizing a mutual aid response to Thursday night’s incident. On a conference call this morning, Columbia Gas requested 500 workers and 25 supervisors from other gas companies in the region to assist with the shut-offs and home inspections.

“NPU is ready and willing to respond to this unprecedented event in Massachusetts, sending a number of our talented personnel to assist with this critical work,” said John Bilda, General Manager of NPU. “NPU’s track record of helping those in need – whenever and wherever we can – is a source of great pride for the men and women of our organization,” said Bilda.

At approximately noon today, the 13 employees will drive to the North Andover Mall, which is being used as a staging area for Columbia Gas. NPU employees will be part of an extensive effort going door to door to shut off services and inspect homes and businesses for natural gas leaks.

NPU expects that their assistance in this phase of the response will last through the weekend. Once all of the natural gas services have been shut off and inspected, the process of purging the system and reconnecting customers can begin, work that can only take place once the safety of the natural gas system in all three communities can be assured.

Natural gas safety information can be found on the NPU website at: