A TEN-FOOT DIAMETER WATER PIPE THAT CARRIES all of Boston’s drinking water to the city sprung a leak Saturday and had to be shut down. The pipe carries water from the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts to the Boston area and serves about 2 dozen of the suburban cities as well as all of Boston. The incident described as a “catastrophic leak” by the Governor, Deval Patrick instituted a state of emergency for the area.
The break occurred in a section of pipe that carries the supply through a valve distribution chamber that sends the water into the various supply mains.
The steel pipe is only 6 or 7 years old and should not have had this problem. At one point, the leak was sending 8 million gallons per hour into the ground and washing into the Charles River. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority was able to draw emergency water supplies from various reservoirs for bathing, flushing and fire protection. The state issued a boil-water order, however, because the water isn’t treated for drinking.
Later yesterday the source of the leak was identified as a failure in a steel collar that joins two sections of pipe together. The Boston Globe continues:
Public health officials said any illnesses from drinking contaminated water would not show up for about a week.
The leak was in a steel coupling, or collar, linking two pipes. The area has been excavated and last night, a new collar was brought to the scene in two pieces that looks like a ring. The bottom half was being welded this morning and the second half will be welded on later today (Sunday).
If the patch works, there will still need to be several days of tests to make sure the water is safe to drink, said Frederick A. Laskey, executive director of the MWRA.
The Boston Herald filed this video report that shows the break and the repairs in progress:
About 265 million gallons were lost before the pipe was successfully shut down. Now the search is on for the broken collar which washed away into the Charles. The authorities want to find it so that they can get some clues on what caused it to fail.
Officials initially said a repair might take weeks, but diverted parts from a nearby project and welders modified them in a matter of hours. They installed the bottom half by noon, then began attaching the top half. They then planned pressure and water quality tests, aiming to finish the work by Monday.
The backup supplies that have been diverted into the domestic mains contain what is described as “untreated pond water” are suitable only for bathing, flushing toilets and fire protection.
The Provincetown Banner has MORE.
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