Broken water line repaired, road opens
By MARY ANN GREIER
SALEM – Area residents can expect a rough ride for now on Newgarden Avenue in the spot where a 16-inch water line cracked open Thursday night.
“We’ll watch to see how it settles and hopefully, no more blowouts,” city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said Friday.
The Utilities Department finished repairs to the broken water main Friday morning, then placed backfill in the hole and road grindings to cover it over as a temporary fix to get the street back open to traffic Friday afternoon.
Kenst said they’ll let it set for awhile, then reevaluate if they need to do anything more besides patching the street. Four years ago when there was a similar water break, the street department had to rebuild the base due to the damage from all the water. The street had already been scheduled for repaving at the time of the break and it was repaved after repairs were finished.
Utility workers were notified of a major break around 5 p.m. Thursday as water flooded Newgarden Avenue near Prospect Street and started buckling the pavement. Police shut down traffic at Railroad Street, Prospect Street and Mullins Street and people all over the city experienced low water pressure. Some in the area near the break had no water at all for several hours.
City Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said the cast iron 16-inch pipe first installed after World War II had an 8-foot crack in the bottom which opened up the flood gates. He had not calculated yet how much water was lost, but estimated hundreds of thousands of gallons and even threw out a figure as high as 1 million gallons. Crews had to replace 20 feet of pipe to fix the problem.
He said the water leak wasn’t brought under control until 10 p.m. Thursday after the closing of seven valves to isolate that area. As far as he knew, no businesses shut down as a result of the water break. About 30 homes had been without water.
When asked about the condition of the aging pipes, he said electrolysis causes the iron to weaken, leading to breaks. All over the city, residences and businesses have their electricity grounded to the water pipes.
He said they’ve talked to the city Utilities Commission Chairman about the water lines. The commission was just finishing an executive session at the end of their meeting Thursday when the call came about the water line break.
Crews worked all night to fix the break, with seven workers racking up $5,500 worth of overtime. The line was loaded with water at 9:30 a.m. Friday and they were bringing it up to pressure to ensure everything was okay. The hole measured 6 feet deep, 8 feet wide and 26 feet long.