Meeting Held on Bringing Gas Leaks to the Surface

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

We’ve heard about natural gas leaks and even properties that have been destroyed by gas explosion. Now a group of women in the Boston area and beyond have banded together to raise awareness about gas leaks and the importance of of finding alternative fuel sources like wind and solar.

“Three years ago we began as a group concerned about climate change,” said Ania Camargo of Mothers Out Front.

State Sen. Joseph Boncore met Camargo when she introduced her organization at the State House. He is supportive and brought her to Winthrop to educate and inform residents in his Town. She spoke last Thursday night to a group of about 20 residents at the senior center, including State Sen. Joe Boncore, Councilor Heather Engman, Councilor Phil Boncore, and School Committee member Tino Capabianco.

According to Heet.org, Winthrop has numerous gas leaks of various degrees.

“Natural gas is methane and methane impacts climate change,” Camargo said. “Methane is one of the most potent of the greenhouse gases.”

Another problem is that old pipelines which can turn into a leaking, explosive hazard. In the Greater Boston area there are 100-year-old cast iron pipes sealed with jute.”

“In 2014 Boston University reported that there had been 3,356 leaks reported to Mothers Out Front,” Camargo said.

To find out information on gas leaks in your neighborhood, go to heetma.org. The bright yellow map-pins are not repaired gas leaks as of Dec. 31st 2015. The blue pins show not repaired leaks (also known as ‘missing leaks’), reported in 2014, which are not mentioned in the 2015 report. Red means there used to be a leak at that address. The Point Shirley area has a cluster of red flags where repairs were made. If you’re worried about a leak, click on the map pin to double-check the address. You can also see the year that leak was first reported to the utility.

In Revere, there are 102 yellow-flagged unprepared gas leaks. Another 95 red-flagged areas where there used to be a leak but are now fixed and 12 blue-flagged addresses where there are missing leaks that are undetected now.

The data comes from the utility’s Annual Service Quality report to the Dept. of Public Utilities.  The HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team) organization mapped the leaks to the best of its ability given the data in the report. For more information contact Audrey.Schulman@HEETma.org. HEET is a tax-deductible nonprofit working to reduce the waste of fossil fuels.

“The gas company has to report leaks to the Department of Public Utilities,” Camargo said. A Grade 1 rating is the highest risk of explosion and fixed promptly. Grade 2 means it will be fixed within a year and a Grade 3 rating means it won’t be. “It’s been known for over 20 years that leaking gas kills trees. Sometimes dead tree is what someone notices with a gas leak.”

Yes, natural gas is clean, cheap and has served as a bridge from dirty coal to renewable energy, Camargo said. But there can be a price if it leaks.

In 2012 a house on Pleasant Street exploded from a gas leak.

“If you smell a leak, bug them, bug them, bug them,” said Camargo. “Let them know it is not okay.”

Camargo also touched upon the natural gas industry’s latest tool to extract natural gas – fracking, the practice of forcing high-pressured water deep into the earth and causing trapped gas to be captured.But there is also a lot of leakage during fracking, said Camargo. Fracking has come under scrutiny since it began in 2002 for causing explosions, earthquakes and disruption of nature.

“We’re building a movement,” Camargo said. “A lot of organizations are trying to address gas leaks. People have to demand action.”

Another way to help reduce gas leaks, Camargo said, is to make sure people paving streets or doing roadwork don’t cover over the switching boxes that turn a gas line on or off.

“It’s scary stuff,” State Sen. Joe Boncore said.

“There have been reports of gas line workers not being able to turn off the gas because the box is buried,” Camargo said.

Mothers Out Front is also working on two pieces of legislation. The first is to make sure that when roads are open for work that any gas leaks are repaired. The second is to get legislators to pass a law hat makes it so the public is not paying for escaped gas. Currently a portion of a gas utility bill goes toward paying for escaped gas.

Locally, said Camargo, cities and towns need to pass a gas leak ordinance that holds utility companies more accountable. So far 37 cities and towns have signed a resolution to get the (State) bill passed.

To report a gas leak call National Grid 800-233-5425.

Journal Staff:

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