Phyllis Theermann
[Image courtesy of Dr. Nathan Phillips, using Google Earth]
Image: This image is a graphic representation of methane readings taken on August 18, 2019, in the vicinity of a gas release near 68 Walnut Street in Wellesley and Quinobequin Road in Newton.

During August, Wellesley experienced not one, but two gas “blowdowns” during which gas was vented from an interstate pipeline that runs along the eastern edge of town. 

What happened?

On August 18th and 27th, Enbridge vented gas from roughly three and a half miles of its Algonquin pipeline into the atmosphere from its valve station near 68 Walnut Street in Wellesley and Quinobequin Road in Newton. This valve site has apparently been used for gas releases in the past, including last October.

What is natural gas?

The main component of natural gas is methane. Methane is a major contributor to climate change. It is about 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. It is also extremely flammable and is a harmful air pollutant. Natural gas contains other chemicals aside from methane, including respiratory toxins and cancer-causing compounds.

How much gas was vented?

Enbridge did not provide the Town with any information about how much gas was vented. However, Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips, Dr. Curt Nordgaard (a pediatrician and environmental health expert), and Bob Ackley (Gas Safety USA) collected methane readings during and after the blowdown using a car-mounted methane analyzer. They estimated that the volume of gas released during the first blowdown was equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of as many as 439 US cars.  The gas plume was detected on residential streets in Newton and Wellesley, and throughout the grounds of the Newton-Wellesley Hospital. 

Why is Sustainable Wellesley concerned?

Sustainable Wellesley is concerned about the impact of this blowdown on our local environment and on our neighbors in Wellesley because breathing air polluted with the components of natural gas is hazardous to human health. The organization is also concerned by Enbridge’s poor communication about this blowdown. The Town was notified of this event, but no Massachusetts state agency (to our knowledge) was informed or was otherwise made aware of the 2-week-long scheduled blowdown period. 

According to emails from Enbridge to the City of Newton, the reason for the blowdown was to address “various anomalies” in the section of pipeline between Needham and Wellesley. There has been no further information as to the number and description of anomalies.  

In light of this event, Sustainable Wellesley makes the following policy recommendations: 

  • Transmission and distribution pipeline operators should be required to work with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Environmental Protection to notify sensitive populations about large gas blowdowns, using a minimum period of time (to be determined) in advance of scheduled gas releases exceeding a minimum threshold (to be determined). When appropriate, based on the quantity and pressure of gas expected to be released, Mass DPH should issue air quality alerts to municipalities expected to be affected by the releases. Municipalities should send push notifications to neighborhoods expected to be affected.
  • Disclosure of pipeline anomalies must be made promptly to municipalities where the anomalies occurred, including the date, time, duration, and nature of the anomalies, and that information should be made publicly available.

What can residents do?

Call your legislators to discuss your concerns about this event.

Rep. Alice Peisch

Phone: (617) 722-2070

Senator Becca Rausch

Phone: (617) 722-1555

Senator Cynthia Creem

Phone: (617) 722-1639 

Phyllis Theermann
Ethan Gas Leaks

Photo Credit: Olivia Snapper

Mark your calendars and join us on Tuesday, March 21, 7:00 to 8:30 pm, at the Wellesley Free Library for a public discussion of gas leaks in Wellesley.

You smell the leaks, and see the signs around town marking the roughly 200 gas leaks in our neighborhoods (thank you 40+ volunteers who made it happen). Perhaps you have seen this Wellesley Media and the Natural Resources Commission’s video on the topic. Unfortunately, there surely are leaks in your neighborhood.

We want do something about all that leaking gas that poses a risk to our safety, our health, and our environment — don’t you? As ratepayers, we are also all paying for this wasted gas.

Now is the time to hear what we can do about it from health, environmental, and energy efficiency experts, as well as ask questions to National Grid and Town Officials.

The Board of Selectmen will preside, joined by Representative Alice Peisch. Featured panelists:
Dr. Nathan Phillips, Dept. of Earth & Environment, Boston University
Audrey Schulman, Home Energy Efficiency Team
Dr. Regina LaRocque, Mass General Hospital
Sue Fleck, Pipeline Safety, National Grid
Town officials will also be available to answer questions

Please click here so we know you are attending!

This event is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by Wellesley Board of Selectmen, State Representative Alice Peisch, State Senator, Cynthia Creem, State Senator Richard Ross, Natural Resources Commission, Sustainable Energy Committee, Health Department, and Sustainable Wellesley.

Phyllis Theermann

Millions of people took to the streets this weekend in a passionate response to the Presidential inauguration and backward thinking of the new administration. Many of you were out there too — and so were we! Sustainable Wellesley folks marched in Boston and Washington DC to express outrage at the climate denial that is tawomens march bostonking hold of the federal government. Here’s what we heard at the rallies: It is up to US to take action.

This Wednesday, January 25, you can take action — join us on Beacon Hill at the Mass Power Forward Lobby Day! Sustainaprotect our planet signble Wellesley is participating in a day of clean energy advocacy with the statewide Mass Power Forward coalition. Join scheduled meetings with Wellesley legislators State Representative Alice Peisch, State Senator Cynthia Creem, and State Senator Richard Ross.

Environmental issues will slide to the bottom of the agenda in the new legislative session unless our elected officials hear from us.

Click HERE for a summary of the Mass Power Forward priorities for the 2017-2018 legislative session.
Click HERE to sign up for January 25, and to receive specifics on the schedule, logistics, and fact sheets.

DATE AND TIME: Wednesday, January 25, 9:45 am to 3 pm
LOCATION: Meet at the Appalachian Mountain Club, 5 Joy Street, Boston (near the State House)