“We have a right to know. We have a right to be safe,” says Ellie Goldberg, a member of Campaign for A Future WithOut Gas, following a manhole explosion that occurred on April 6 at the intersection of Walnut Street and Lakewood Road in Newton Highlands. The explosion resulted in the loss of power to approximately 6,500 Newton residents and businesses, disruption to traffic, and low water pressure.
According to Ellen Ishkanian, the City’s Director of Community Communications, both Eversource and the Newton Fire Department reported that “a cable failed in a manhole (the manhole cover never lifted or dislodged. Flashes came through the slots). Customers were switched to a different circuit and all service was restored.”
Although no one reported that gas was a cause of the explosion, Goldberg says there is cause for concern. According to Goldberg, National Grid’s Q4 report shows there was an unrepaired high-volume gas leak at the intersection of Walnut and Lakewood. This leak was first reported in May 2013 and was reclassified as a high-volume leak in July 2021.
Goldberg added that it is “unacceptable that, by National Grid’s 2022 data, Newton has:
83 high-volume unrepaired gas leaks like the one on Walnut Street. (According to Goldberg, this video vizualizes the flow of such leaks.)
166 Grade 1 emergency leaks in or near contained spaces where gas could build up and explode. They require same-day repair.
143 Grade 2 leaks that are non-hazardous, but could be hazardous in the future, due to freezing and thawing. They require repair within a year.
718 Grade 3 leaks that are non-hazardous. Those designated after 2017 must be repaired or eliminated within 8 years because methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. Newton’s oldest unrepaired leak, at 52 Sewell Street, has leaked continuously since 10/22/1990.” (see Gas Leak Grade info)
In February, the City Council approved a Resolution for a Future WithOut Gas and for Clean Heat. The resolution acknowledges the urgency to reduce the cost and risk of the city’s gas infrastructure and commits the City to create a city-wide plan to achieve efficiencies and reduce emissions and risks by accelerating the retirement of the gas system. Ward 1 City Councilor and lead sponsor of the Resolution, Alison Leary said, “I am proposing a working group tasked with working with Nation Grid on a comprehensive city-wide plan to better identify, prioritize and manage gas leaks, reduce the risks and have a plan for triage, repair and the eventual retirement of methane gas.”
Goldberg responded, “We need to claim the right to know what National Grid is doing to reduce the risk of another incident. We are very grateful to Councilor Leary for her commitment to understanding the importance of seeking transparency about the real-time condition of our gas infrastructure and calling for more strategic decisions to fix the most dangerous leaks. A Gas Leaks Working Group could serve that purpose.”