By Ron Green
Representatives of National Grid explained the plans and policies they follow in resolving gas leak problems to the Bedford Energy Task Force on December 13.
Grace Sawaya, Community and Customer Manager for this 22-town area, stepped through a Power Point presentation covering issues and solutions as seen by National Grid. She outlined the process and general plans for sealing the many gas leaks in Bedford.
Sawaya underscored that close communication must and does take place with our local Department of Public Works in planning how and when to repair streets needing to be opened.
According to Sawaya, the company must report all leaks to the Massachusetts Public Utilities Commission and the Bedford DPW. The company focuses on those leaks of most immediate danger, such as those close to schools, public meeting places, or sources of combustion – Level 1 leaks — must be repaired immediately. Level 2 leaks, those in less dangerous settings, are planned for repair in three to six months. The lowest class of leaks — Level 3 — are monitored and repaired when possible.
David Gendell, National Grid Director, Community and Customer Management, added that the location and the volume of leaks are a matter of record. The company is eager to know of any hints of leaks. As noted on the National Grid web site, “If you smell gas anywhere, including in your home, go outside and call 1-800-233-5325 or 911 immediately.”
The company uses specially equipped “sniffer” trucks for quick sensing of leaks. Field engineers walk and sample the entire town for a closer review every three years.
Sawaya and Gendell pointed to two factors slowing a more rapid pace for repair: the lack of workers and the lack of funding from rate payers. Massachusetts DPU has not granted a rate increase in over five years.
Chis Rabinowitz, member of the Task Force, asked for additional clarity on the means for measuring volume of leaks. The question also came from one of the citizens attending. An alternative measuring method, the Miller system, developed by a Boston University professor, is widely judged to give a clearer picture. Sawaya noted the system is very expensive and for technical comparison reasons does provide a clearer picture.