State officials halt National Grid work pending safety review after gas pressure scare in Woburn

WOBURN, MASS. (WHDH) - National Grid is under intense pressure to restore gas for hundreds of homes in Woburn after yet another gas pressure scare, just weeks after a similar incident caused explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley.

But state officials stepped in after an overpressurization incident in Woburn on Monday, temporarily stopping all non-essential work in the area while they review the company’s safety practices.

And a press conference aimed at filling the public in on next steps took a chaotic turn Monday night as National Grid officials were confronted by angry, locked out workers who have been off the job since negotiations with unions have stalled.

Images from last month’s gas disaster in the Merrimack Valley quickly came to the surface for many in Woburn when they heard about an overpressurization of their gas lines.

“That was scary,” said one resident, “especially when we heard what happened in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence.”

Another resident said, “When I heard that term that they had used up there (in the Merrimack Valley), I said, ‘holy crap.’”

Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin announced that a National Grid crew accidentally overpressurized the system late Monday morning. But the mistake was noticed immediately and the gas line was shut down.

Then crews were forced to go door to door and shut off service to roughly 330 homes.

“I just want to let everybody know, everybody in the city is safe,” Galvin said.

More than 1,200 National Grid workers are currently locked out during union negotiations, and many came to Woburn, blaming the mistake on unqualified technicians.

“For us, it was only a matter of time,” said Fred Naumann. “The company right now has the B team in when they should have the A team.”

Marcy Reed, the president of National Grid, said workers fixing the problem right now are “fully qualified and capable of doing the job.”

National Grid says service should be fully restored to those homes no later than Thursday. Until then, homeowners will have to make do.

“I guess it will be takeout tonight,” one homeowner said. “I guess we won’t be having the Shepherd’s Pie tonight.”

National Grid says it’s fine with the DPU decision to halt all non-emergency work, and the company is open to reimbursing any reasonable relocation expenses over the next few days.

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