Some Turn to Costly Heating Options After Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions

Some might not have their gas back in before Thanksgiving in Merrimack Valley, so businesses and residents aren't waiting. Some are willing to make a big investment to get back to life as usual.

The Pizza Factory in Andover, Massachusetts, is back up and running after losing eight crucial days of pizza pie making. Anastasios Haraktsis said it's a devastating hit to this small business' bottom line.

"We have to support our families and our employees — it's not easy to support a business," said an emotional Hataktsis, the owner of Pizza Factory, which has been around for 21 years.

Hataktsis installed a propane tank system in three days with the help of the city. He had a contractor make a plan, got the necessary permits and inspections, and was opening his doors a few days ago. The whole process was not cheap.

"It was real expensive. I haven't gotten the actual numbers yet, but it was like $13,000. I am grabbing from my own pockets right now to do this," said Hataktsis.

Homeowners are willing to spend thousands, too. Jim Kelley is exploring options, from propane to an electric furnace.

"It's basically, what do we do for heat when it gets really cold? Like, pipes freezing, and it could be a life and death situation if it gets really cold," said Kelley.

The Andover Fire Department has been getting dozens of calls all asking the same thing: when will they have gas again, and should they make the switch?

"In many situations, we cannot give them a good, solid timeline," said Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield.

The chief says the target date for all gas service to be restored is Nov. 19, but he can't say that will be 100 percent accurate for everyone.

"You can only work so fast. And that's the problem. You don't want to compromise the safety factor — have them work quickly and then run into more issues," said Kelley.

The fire chief said residents can make a claim to Columbia Gas if they are trying to switch to propane or to some other form of heat.

There will be teams assessing businesses to check on damages and claims in the coming weeks.

"It's like a terrible nightmare, and I am trying to wake up right now," said Hataktsis. "It's been tough."

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