Student film on gas explosions to be screened at Athol Public Library

  • The film “Under Pressure” will be screened at the Athol Public Library on Wednesday. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2019 6:24:27 PM

ATHOL — Reflecting on the September 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions, local high school students are asking, “Why did this disaster happen, and could it happen again?”

These questions are at the core of the film “Under Pressure,” created by a team of senior filmmakers from the Four Rivers Charter Public School in Greenfield, who chose the disaster and its difficult aftermath as the focus of their 2019 senior project.

The film will be screened at the Athol Public Library Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. as part of a collaboration between the North Quabbin Energy citizens group, the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club and the Friends of the Athol Public Library.

According to a press release from North Quabbin Energy, the film analyzes the explosions in three eastern Massachusetts that resulted in one death, 25 injured, thousands of residents evacuated and more than 100 structures destroyed, totaling approximately $1 billion in damages.

“This film explores the complex truth of natural gas as an energy source,” said Four Rivers English teacher Leah Plath, “as well as the struggles of local families and small businesses as they attempt to rebuild their lives after disaster.”

The students researched, wrote and filmed for the project, interviewing explosion victims, first responders, business owners, elected officials, scientists, utility representatives and activists, the release states.

Greenfield Community Television partnered with students, providing equipment and training. Once finished, the documentary received the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education.

“This film is powerful, speaking to issues affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of gas customers,” North Quabbin Energy organizer Diane Nassif said. “It also relates to on-going citizen efforts to stop construction of fracked gas pipelines throughout the state and beyond.”

There will be a discussion following the screening, led by Dr. Nathan Phillips, a professor at Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences who was interviewed in the film. His research in Boston was the first of its kind to map gas leaks in a major city.

Lilly Lombard, Sierra Club activist and mother of one of the student filmmakers, will also attend the screening and discussion.

To ensure space, the library requires advance registration. Register by calling 978-249-9515.

The trailer for “Under Pressure” can be viewed at:

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.

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