By Patriot Staff
WEBSTER – A water main on Rawson Road burst on Friday morning at about 11:30 a.m, spilling more than a half million gallons of water down the street, onto properties on Rawson Road and Gore Road, and eventually emptying into Webster Lake. The break affected water pressure throughout the town. Water quality was not compromised during the incident.
The Department of Public Works quickly began efforts to divert the water from private properties and to repair the broken pipe. Town residents were asked to minimize water usage while the repairs were going on. Repairs were completed at 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning and the system was back up and running.
The break occurred just 50 feet from a similar break last August, which spilled the entire contents of the 1.2 million gallon water tank at the top of Rawson Road. That break caught the water department unprepared. This time the department was prepared.
Public Works Director J.T. Gaucher explained the reason for the breaks and the department’s plan to avert future incidents. “It’s the age of the pipe,” he said. “It is a hundred years old; it was laid in and on ledge, and is rusting.”
When the Rawson Road main first burst last August, the department did not have the spare parts to make a quick repair. The 20” main is a non-standard size and therefore takes time to obtain. After that incident, the department immediately procured an extra length of pipe and couplings, and so was ready for the break last Friday. Mr. Gaucher said they have already secured new spare pipe and couplings in the event of another break.
The long-term solution is to replace the water main, and plans are underway for this to happen. Mr. Gaucher said that immediately after the break in August he applied for a loan from the State Revolving Fund. This is a Department of Environmental Protection fund specifically designated for water and wastewater abatement projects. The loan was approved last month. The new water main would replace the existing pipe from the Rawson Road water tank to Gore Road and all the way to the Worcester Road intersection.
The next step is for the Town to approve design and construction plans, which the town has to fund, and for Town Meeting to approve the loan. Mr. Gaucher said he is timing this for the May Town Meeting.
At last week’s incident, water and highway department personnel set up plows to divert the water rushing down Rawson Road , hoping to avert the severe washouts that occurred in August. That break had caused serious erosion of the road and lawns, and flooded basements, some of which the town had to take responsibility. Some erosion and flooding did occur this time as well.
The rushing water brought with it pieces of road and debris, prompting police to forbid residents from walking up Rawson Road. At least one resident wanted to check on his mother, and was asked not to do so. (See letter to the editor p. x )
The other focus was to shut down the water tank. “It takes about an hour just to shut it down,” Mr Gaucher said. The department had a lot of help from outside companies to repair the pipe, including M&M Excavating. The water department is short of personnel, and so the additional assistance was critical.
As of Monday, the Rawson Road water tank is back at full capacity. Meantime, the Park Road tank, which had been empty because it was undergoing repairs, has been filled as well, though it remains offline.