Boston: One person dead, others injured after dozens of gas explosions and fires


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/09/13/boston-one-person-dead-other.html


#2

I feel badly for the dead person, but it would be fortunate if this is the only fatality. Houses being blown off their foundations?!


#3

Yeah… I am at a loss for words but also utterly amazed there is just one death from that many explosions.


#4

This all happened while people were away at work, which helps with the odds…


#5

I hope all Boston-area Boingers are safe. That goes for North and South Carolina Boingers, too!


#6

The possibility has been raised that this is due to a control software issue… that could be caused by something like, say, Russian hacking. That would be an disturbing twist to a horrible event.


#7

The Lawrence Eagle Tribune site should def be on the list of local media covering this, btw, they’re a great local news source in this area:
http://www.eagletribune.com


#8

Oh no! the pets :cry: :cry: :crying_cat_face: Animal deaths do matter I don’t know why it’s seldom reported. “Too expensive,” probably.


#9

Not to pick nits, but to say that this happened in suburban Boston is a bit of a stretch. The effected area is a good 20 miles north as the crow flies.


#10

From what i understand a reg station failed upsteam, which could’ve caused an area to start pushing a lot of gas into homes. If that’s true that’s a massive fuck up. It’s a worst case scenario as far as failure of equipment from a gas utility.


#11

It would be an unacceptable failure. Regulators are supposed to fail closing and there should be safety valves that shut the line if the downstream pressure is too high.


#12

Yep, right now its speculation but if true that’s something else. But it is strange that the area was over-pressurized.


#13

I’m a little unclear on the timing of that Columbia Gas posting. Is it indicative of a possible cause, or a tone-deaf-play-ignorant acknowledgement of the problem?


#14

Yeah, pedantry: I’m not sure I’d call Lawrence a “Boston suburb”, it’s one of many distressed mill towns across New England, like Brockton or Lowell or Fitchburg.

Anyway, not that it matters where it is, I live in Boston and saw the news this morning and was a little freaked out.


#15

Well, the area was under service for “upgrades”. Who knows what safeties they temporarily had turned off, or if someone screwed up part of the sequence in switching something over.


#16

As far as pressure control and management that’s something that’s out of my wheelhouse (I work with a gas utility, but more on the contracting/project management side). So i can’t hazard a guess as to what may have gone wrong, but typically safety measures would not be turned off ahead of upgrades or replacements. My hunch is that it was a massive failure of a reg station, but again that’s not my expertise. I’m interested to find out what happened because its very strange.


#17

Same, just spitballing here; will probably take several days or weeks to get a decent answer; longer if someone higher up the chain screwed up and is impeding the investigation.


#18

That would be very difficult. Gas utilities are heavily regulated, especially when events like these happen… at least from what i understand. Once a utility gets audited its a pretty thorough and intensive process, anyone and everyone found to be liable for mistakes or negligence is held accountable and any bad corporate culture has to be addressed.

My company went through something similar like 10-15 years ago. This place was very different from what i hear… was more of an old boys club where people just did what they wanted to get work done. These days its all very by the book and efficient.

But this being in Boston there’s likely some stuff about gas utilities i don’t know, but just speaking from what knowledge i do have.


#19

All good points - I was working from the assumption that, since something like this happened in the first place, the odds are much, much higher that there’s less of an official framework around things and more of the “old boys club” like you mentioned, with oversight failures and spotty or nonexistent auditing.

Now, everything could be linked back to some bizarre special case scenario that nobody knew to look out for… But 99.999% of the time, it’s something predictable and preventable, so someone screwed up. Especially in something like this where a screwup is both massively expensive to fix and incredibly dangerous.


#20

Maddow was reporting on it last night, and she said that the service upgrade notice had recently been sent to customers, but that work wasn’t supposed to start until next week.