‘Devastation and vulnerability’: Officials urge gas disaster victims to be careful who they trust

LAWRENCE, MASS. (WHDH) - Officials are reminding Merrimack Valley residents struggling to recover weeks after the gas explosions and fires to be careful who they trust during this trying time.

Entire neighborhoods remain without gas as teams of plumbers, electricians, Columbia gas representatives, National Guardsmen and translators go door to door for home assessments Wednesday.

As thousands of residents survey their damages, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and Attorney General Maura Healey are urging those considering lawsuits to be cautious.

“I’m not sure someone who is trying to get you to sign up for a lawsuit before you have the ability to turn on your gas has your best interest in mind,” Rivera said.

Officials have offered these tips to homeowners looking for attorneys or home improvement help:

  • Make sure the lawyer is licensed
  • Understand all documents you sign and keep copies of them
  • Check consumer reviews on contractors
  • Don’t let people into your home without an ID

“I want to make sure people protect themselves now and are not further victimized while they deal with existing devastation and vulnerability,” Healey said.

Dozens of Columbia Gas and contracted construction teams have started replacing the 48-mile, cast iron and bare steel gas distribution system in the Merrimack Valley.

Venting of the Natural Gas system begins in Andover and North Andover Wednesday after being postponed Tuesday due to rain. This process removes any gas from the pipe before crews can start to work, meaning people living in those areas may smell gas.

The gas line project is expected to be completed on Nov. 19, which could leave several residents without gas for the next couple of months.

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