SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

May 2, 2010

Crews race to fix water main break

Marblehead, Swampscott still under boil-water order

BEVERLY — Crews welded a replacement metal collar Sunday they hoped would provide a quicker-than-expected fix for a break in a major pipe that cut off the supply of clean water to 2 million people in Boston and its suburbs.

Adding to the pressure was an unseasonably warm spring forecast for the area, with the temperature predicted to reach a summer-like 88 degrees.

There also were economic and social concerns: Restaurants in suburban Lexington shut down Saturday night, unable to wash dishes or serve customers clean water, while police in Revere had to be called into a BJ's Wholesale Club after a run on bottled water turned unruly.

Locally, Marblehead and Swampscott remain under a boil-water order.

The breach was reported Saturday morning in Weston, about 10 miles west of Boston. It was in a coupling holding together two sections of a 10-foot-wide metal pipe that carries 250 million gallons a day from the Quabbin Reservoir to some 750,000 households in 30 communities.

Officials initially said they hoped a repair could be made in days, rather than weeks, since the pipe has a complex design and needed custom-made replacement parts.

But the head of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority said early Sunday that the necessary metal had been located overnight and welders immediately began fashioning the replacement part.

"The good news is we know the extent of the problem; we've got a solution to fix it," Frederick Laskey said. "As soon as the preparation finishes, they are going to start welding that repair piece back in place, and hopefully that'll be the solution."

While declaring, "I don't want to jinx it," Laskey said he hoped the part could be installed by Monday morning and then water pressure and water quality tests could be conducted "to make sure we can get the system back on and running."

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