State Representative Diana Dizoglio and Register of Deeds M. Paul Iannuccillo each sent a letter to North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor concerning the gas repair work done by utility contractor, Feeney Bothers in the town of North Andover, after Feeney was thrown out of both Lawrence and Andover citing safety concerns.
Manager Maylor did responded to Iannuccillo’s letter defending his decision to use the Dorchester contractor that in part, caused the gas explosions and fires on September 13th.
Here are both DiZoglio and Iannuccillo’s letters to Maylor and his response.
Andrew W. Maylor, Town Manager
North Andover Town Hall
120 Main Street
North Andover, MA 01845
Dear Mr. Maylor,
I write to you regarding the ongoing restoration of gas service to North Andover residents affected by the recent natural gas explosions. More than a month since this disaster destroyed homes and buildings in communities across the Merrimack Valley, families continue to reel from the incident, valiantly working to rebuild their lives.
Amidst the recovery effort has been the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)’s investigation into what caused this series of explosions. A subject of this investigation is Feeney Brothers Utility Services, the contractor working at the Lawrence site on the day of the explosions. While Feeney Bros. has denied any culpability in the disaster, the NTSB has yet to finish its full investigation on the lead-up to the incident.
I share the concerns of many affected residents as it pertains to Feeney Bros.’ participation in the restoration of gas services while the NTSB continues its in-depth inquiry. While we do have an initial report from the NTSB, I would like to highlight the fact that this is indeed only an initial, preliminary report. Until the investigation is fully completed, I urge the town to err in the side of caution regarding the ongoing utilization of Feeney Bros. in the gas restoration effort. I believe there are issues that still need to be examined regarding the responsibility of the contractor to recognize potential defects in the faulty work order provided by Columbia Gas that ultimately resulted in the disaster.
The Commonwealth’s Department of Public Utilities has formally requested National Grid release its workers to assist in the recovery effort. While their contract dispute remains ongoing, National Grid has finally cleared these employees to help with the restoration. There are over 1,200 skilled and trained, local gas workers on standby who should be utilized as Feeney Bros. continues to remain under investigation. There are also various local contractors on standby able to assist with other types of work pertaining to the restoration such as excavation and paving. This means that there’s no need for any pause or interruption in the ongoing work that is being done. It’s my understanding that Lawrence and Andover have already decided not to utilize Feeney Bros. while the investigation is ongoing. I hope North Andover follows suit.
With so many questions still unanswered by the NTSB and countless North Andover residents counting on a safe restoration of gas service, I believe we would rather be safe than sorry as it pertains to Feeney Bros.’ continued involvement.
Thank you for your consideration of this letter. If you would like to further discuss this matter, please feel free to contact me anytime.
14th Essex District
Andrew W. Maylor, Town Manager October 22, 2018
North Andover Town Hall
120 Main Street
North Andover, MA 01845 via email
Dear Mr. Maylor,
I am writing to you today regarding the ongoing gas restoration to the residents of North Andover. As a resident of North Andover and an elected official covering Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, North Andover, I am particularly concerned about the culpability of Fenney Brothers, the contractor working at the Lawrence site the day of the disaster. I would ask the Town to prohibit Feeney Bros. to participate in the restoration project in North Andover until the National Transportation Safety has completed its full investigation. It is my understanding that Lawrence and Andover have done the same.
Furthermore, National Grid has cleared their workers to assist in the gas restoration process at the request of the Department of Public Utilities. National Grid’s actions and the ability of other trained workers and contractors who are standing by to assist in the construction process should allow the restoration process to continue without Feeney Bros. and without any slow down or interruption.
With so many unanswered questions by the NTSB, I urge the Town of North Andover to prohibit Feeney Bros. from doing any further work on the gas restoration in North Andover until the NTSB issues their final report. I believe North Andover should err on the side of caution, being mindful of the Merrimack Valley families that continue to be adversely affected by this disaster, until the NTSB finalized its complete written report.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please feel free to contact me to further discuss.
Register of Deeds
RESPONSE BY TOWN MANAGER MAYLOR
As the restoration process continues there is no doubt that the safety of impacted North Andover residents is my first priority. As we planned for the restoration process several weeks ago I was the first among all of the stakeholders to state that Feeney Brothers, the Columbia Gas contractor “in the hole” at the time of the over pressurization, should not work on the replacement of gas mains until such time that the NTSB determined who was responsible. My decision was not based on the “optics” of them doing the work, but instead because it was the safe thing to do. As you know the NTSB issued its preliminary report on October 11, 2018. In that report they were clear about the cause of this disaster “Columbia Gas developed and approved the work package executed on the day of the accident. The work package did not account for the location of the sensing lines or require their relocation to ensure the regulators were sensing actual system pressure. The work was performed in accordance with steps laid out in the work package. In light of this accident, Columbia Gas implemented a safety stand-down for all employees who perform work related to low-pressure natural gas systems for NiSource subsidiaries.” (emphasis added)
In a conversation I had with one of the lead NTSB investigators around the time the report was issued it was confirmed to me that Columbia Gas was responsible and the fact that the report was “Preliminary” would not change that but instead allow them to provide more details about what took place before and after the incident. This is supported by the last sentence in the report, ” The NTSB’s investigation into this accident is ongoing. Future investigative issues include the coordination between the emergency responders and Columbia Gas; an analysis of the engineering work package preparation and execution, including the design documentation; and a review of construction packages for constructability and safety.” There is no mention of the contractor. In addition, after the NTSB report was issued the State DPU issued a moratorium to Columbia Gas for all non-emergency gas work, but did not do the same for the contractor working on the day of the over pressurization.
As I said at the outset, safety of the impacted residents is my first priority. So when a labor leader contacted me and indicated that if I did not remove Feeney Brothers (a non-union contractor) from gas main replacement work in North Andover he would tell the residents of North Andover I was risking their safety, I went beyond what was determined by the NTSB and DPU and decided to analyze the safety records of all of the contractors that have provided the 200+ crews doing the gas main replacement work in all three communities. What I learned was that Feeney Brothers, the contractor on the job during the gas over pressurization, sits in the middle of the pack regarding safety with contractors having less safe records, some having similar records, and others superior records. The reason I remain comfortable with the safety of the gas main replacement work is that the DPU has more inspectors’ onsite ensuring the safety of these projects than we have ever or will ever see on similar work in North Andover. If I did work in a world where the “optics” was my motivating factor, I would instruct Columbia to make sure that the contractors with the poorest safety records not work in North Andover (and that would not be Feeney). However, I am confident that the DPU is ensuring that the work being done in North Andover is safe; therefore I must focus on protecting your interests by getting the work done in a timely basis so that the impacted residents can be warm in their homes. Removing Feeney would not make the work any safer, but it may extend the time it takes to complete the work and I don’t think that would be right thing to do for our residents.
I stand by my decision.
Andrew W. Maylor