Community After Gas Leak

The towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover are still feeling the effects of last week’s gas leaks. 48 miles of gas lines need to be re-installed in these affected areas, according to “WBUR News.” While the school has responded quickly to these events to ensure necessary alterations in accommodating students, some buildings and dorms are still without access to hot water and laundry. The Phillipian surveyed different members of the Andover community to see how they are still impacted by the gas leaks.

Vimala Mohammed, Administrative Assistant and Work Duty Coordinator

Vimala Mohammed, Administrative Assistant and Work Duty Coordinator, experienced a fire in her basement from the gas leak.

“The furnace burned, and so we were able to get the fire department. They came, not as soon as they would normally come, but they came soon enough to put the fire out, so it was contained. We were out of our house on Thursday, Friday, and over the weekend. On Sunday, when we had power back, we were able to return,” she said.

Mohammed is still without access to her stove and hot water. She has, however, taken steps to move past these inconveniences by buying a pressure-cooker and taking hot showers with boiled water from her kitchen.

“I actually have been improvising and been boiling water in my kettle that I make tea with, pouring it into a bucket, and making several trips to the shower to take bucket showers,” said Mohammed.

Mohammed keeps a positive outlook on her and her family’s situation, recognizing that there are others in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence who are more severely affected by the gas leak and house fires.

Mohammed said, “I can piece my life back together with a little bit of inconvenience, but it’s nothing compared to what other people are going through. I don’t consider myself so unfortunate. It’s not ideal, but it’s manageable.”

Sebastian Romero ’20, Day Student

Sebastian Romero ’20, a day student from Andover, was walking back from his soccer practice when he saw text notifications warning everyone to exit campus buildings. Soon after, he received a call from his parents telling him to come home immediately.

“As soon I got home, my parents were standing outside the house and my dad told me that we had to leave immediately. I felt really anxious, because nobody knew what was going on. We just had to drive without any direction as to where we were going,” said Romero.

According to Romero, his house remained intact and had running hot water and electricity. However, Romero says that he witnessed some damage to surrounding homes.

“Less than a mile away, I saw a house down the road blow up. The entire house was in flames. The house is still in repair and people figuring out what happened. It was really intimidating for me to see the damage so close,” said Romero.

Now, Romero sees the neighborhood as back in its normal cycle. Romero credits the community for restoring power and hot water to most of the homes as soon as possible.

Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life

After the gas leaks, the administration has been working together with the Office of Physical Plant (OPP) and utility companies to ensure that the dorms that are still affected have access to hot water and laundry as soon as possible. OPP has been trying to get alternative forms of energy for the dorms still in need.

“There have been a number of different initiatives based upon the needs of a specific building. They’ve provided E&R Laundry services for all of the students who have been affected, until they’re able to gain that sort of energy source. They’re working on how to connect those buildings to propane instead of natural gas, to have that be the energy source, which is obviously a very complicated process,” said Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life.

According to Elliott, the issue of heat among campus buildings has been solved for the most part. Besides a few dorms, most of the buildings have access to heat.

“They’ve gotten the regular generators up and running so we can get heat. A couple of dorms will be delayed on that front, but not any more than we usually are — we usually don’t turn on heat until in the beginning of October,” said Elliott.

Paige Busse ’19, Morton House Proctor

Paige Busse ’19, a Proctor in Morton House, described the togetherness of her dorm throughout the entirety of the gas leak events.

“One thing that I really appreciate is that the girls handled it really well. We were all super calm. Our house counselors’ kids were there. We stayed together the entire time,” said Busse in an interview with The Phillipian.

“And when they brought us into the Cage, and there’s all that food there, we sort of collected it for our dorm together. A lot of the [other non-Morton residents] sort of just left; some went to Boston, some went without permission. It was really nice that [the girls in Morton] stayed really close and helped each other out.”

Other members of the community also helped out, such as Ellen Greenberg, Instructor in Mathematics and Statistics, who baked brownies for the girls in Morton, according to Busse.

“Our house counselors can’t cook; they can’t use their stove or the oven, they don’t have hot water, they don’t have heat and can’t use their dryers. So we’re incredibly lucky because they jumped right in and said, ‘We’re going to install a propane tank for your heater, an electric water heater, and give you free laundry service. They told us that it would be a week, and it was one day. We had hot water as of yesterday morning,” said Busse.

Nestor Payan, Paresky Commons Worker

Paresky Commons workers were affected by the gas leaks as well. The traffic on the road made it difficult for many to get to work, according to Nestor Payan, who works at the stir fry station in Paresky.

“Most of the employees live in South Lawrence, so we couldn’t come. We are about 35 [total], but the next day, on Friday, just 15 were here. It wasn’t good for the company. The first floor was closed. If I don’t come, and the pizza guy doesn’t come, [the first floor is] terrible.”

Payan described the traffic on the highway on Friday, the day after the explosions.

“I couldn’t come back the next day, because all the exits were closed. I called my company, and they told me you have to go to Exit 93, then go to 44, then to 95, then go to Exit 41, but I couldn’t. I spent two hours on the road trying to come here.”

Although there was difficulty the first few days after the explosions, Paresky is now fully functional.