Last Thursday marked the third house explosion in Massachusetts in the past three months. The gas explosion occurred in Somerset, where a utility crew responded to reports of a gas leak and told firefighters the leak was under control. Firefighters were knocking on doors that evening checking for elevated gas levels, but crews from New England Gas Co. told the firefighters they could leave.
Minutes later, a single-family house exploded, sending debris through the neighborhood and forcing 200 neighbors to evacuate. A firefighter and utility worker were both injured. The gas crews planned to dig into the street to check the leak, but they did not shut off the gas supply to the neighborhood.
According to the United States Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 323 people died and 1,341 were injured because of gas leaks or explosions between 1998 and 2008. In Massachusetts, six people died and 12 were injured from similar explosions during that same time frame. In December, a Scituate man died in a house explosion, and last month another man was severely injured in Gloucester. The recent spike in gas explosions raises concerns about the safety of Massachusetts workers and residents.
“I would say these explosions are early warning flags, if nothing else,” Stephen Connors, director of analysis at the MIT Energy Initiative, told the Boston Globe.