The Hidden Costs of Salem’s Gas Leaks

SAFE Public Forum, November 28, 2017

How many dangerous gas leaks lurk under the streets of Salem, MA, is a question of debate. But SAFE knows that there are many gas leaks and we’re concerned because 95% of gas is methane—a potent force in climate change. Additionally, methane leaks kill trees, are potentially explosive, hurt human health, and cost ratepayers.

On six days of observation in August and September of 2016, SAFE working with nationally recognized experts on gas leaks–Bob Ackley, President of Gas Safety Inc., and Professor Nathan Phillips of the Department of Earth and Environment of Boston University–surveyed the 93 miles of roadway in our city with cutting edge technology, a Picarro Gas Analyzer , a data collection device.

In a SAFE sponsored public forum on November 28, 2017, THE HIDDEN COSTS OF SALEM’S GAS LEAKS, we shared our timeline, process, and further questions regarding gas leaks in our city. Mayor Kim Driscoll explained her experience of being with Ackley and Phillips as they collected data. Phillips explained the threats of methane’s contributions to climate change, Ackley detailed the safety challenges of gas leaks, and SSU Prof. Marcos Luna briefly described his process of analysis and shared maps of the entire city locating all of the points of gas leak detection.

In October, 2016, Phillips reported that he and Ackley had reviewed the raw data and had found evidence of hundreds of methane leaks.

As required by state law, National Grid in December of 2016 reported to the MA Department of Public Utilities all of the gas leaks in each municipality that it serves. HEET mapped those reports. Salem had 62 unrepaired gas leaks .

How would SAFE reconcile the widely varying reports of methane leaks?

In an act of professional generosity, Ackley and Phillips shared their data with SAFE which then enlisted Professor Marcos Luna of Salem State University, Chair of the Graduate Program in Geographic Information Services, to analyze the data and plot it for SAFE and the city of Salem. By early fall of 2017, Luna estimated that conservatively speaking there were 232 leaks of the size that NGRID typically reports to DPU and upwards of 1,000 leaks of varying sizes.

SAFE is grateful for the generosity of the experts who are collaborating with us in working to solve the problem of identifying and hopefully remediating the methane leaks in Salem. We invite you to view the above video of the forum and send questions or comments to SalemSAFE@gmail.com. You may also post your questions and comments to www.facebook.com/groups/SalemSAFE

–Patricia A. Gozemba, Co-Chair of SAFE

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