Dorchester Subcontractor to Be Investigated in Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions

The investigation into the deadly explosions in the Merrimack Valley will include a Boston-based company that contracts with Columbia Gas.

Feeney Brothers Utility Services of Dorchester is one of two subcontractors used by the gas company in Lawrence, Massachusetts, according to that city's Department of Public Works.

During a press conference Sunday, the National Transportation Safety Board said it was looking into work that was underway at a Columbia Gas site at Winthrop and South Union Street. The agency discovered evidence that pressure sensors had been attached to a gas line that was being taken out of service there on the day of the explosions. While the agency would not identify it as the cause, they explained that the sensors are used to indicate when gas is low and more is needed.

"We are working for Columbia Gas and are cooperating in the NTSB investigation. Feeney Brothers Utility Services shares in our community's deep sadness resulting from Thursday's tragic events in Merrimack Valley," wrote company spokeswoman Nancy Sterling.

"We have to just let that process play out. There's liability all over it and people need to get that right and people need to be held accountable," said Gov. Charlie Baker during a press conference Monday.

Baker also announced Monday that a disaster relief fund was being created to help victims.

According to the NTSB, it could take up to two years before they release the results of their investigation. However, safety experts hope they will deliver recommendations in the near future.

"Having safeguards in place to make sure this type of thing doesn't happen again is really important for the NTSB to come up with here," said Bob Ackley of Gas Safety Inc.

Monday evening, police and representatives from Columbia Gas returned to the work site at South Union Street. Authorities on site would only say the visit was part of the ongoing investigation.

"The NTSB folks are going to do a pretty in depth study," said Baker. "Review all of the decisions people made that led to what they claim was the work that was being done on the system."

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