It shouldn’t have taken explosion to expose poor areas’ substandard conditions
Re “Plan B fueled push to restore gas service” (Page A1, Dec. 4): Milton J. Valencia reports that delays in restoring gas service to South Lawrence were due not only to Columbia Gas and its subcontractors but to egregious housing conditions, such as hazardous stairways and unsafe chimneys.
Lawrence municipal officials and Columbia Gas contractors appear flummoxed that the South Lawrence housing stock was in such hazardous condition. Their lack of knowledge or understanding of the substandard housing conditions in that neighborhood is shocking. Awareness of these conditions, thorough inspections, timely and effective enforcement of codes, tenants’ awareness of their rights, and landlords complying with minimum health and safety codes would have helped mitigate the long-term displacement and suffering of the residents of South Lawrence.
However, those conditions and challenges are not a surprise to those who work and live in environmental justice communities such as South Lawrence. Housing hazards such as unsafe stairways, crumbling chimneys, obstructed or missing egresses, deteriorated fire escapes, rusted or leaking gas and water pipes, frayed wiring, and many other basic health and safety conditions are common in rental housing in poor communities.
The writer is a registered sanitarian and an adjunct faculty member at the Boston University School of Public Health.