EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 8, 2013

Broken water pipes drop pressure to homes

Officials baffled, think extreme temperature changes to blame

HAVERHILL — While the warmer weather was a welcome arrival, it caused an unexpected problem for residents of several city neighborhoods.

Three water main breaks within a few hours of each other on Sunday had city workers scrambling to make repairs and restore water pressure to homes.

The leaks baffled water officials. Robert Ward, director of the city’s water and sewer departments, said he could not recall so many leaks happening in such a short period of time. He said the problems were likely the result of temperature fluctuations causing expansion and contraction of cast iron water pipes and the soil around them. On Thursday, the temperature dropped into the single digits before rising into the low 40s over the weekend.

”It could have been the movement of the soil from freezing and thawing,’’ Ward said. “When you get frost in the ground, you can get some movement.’’

The leaks caused some homes to lose water pressure and some to get rusty water.

Ward said he planned to have a section of pipe from one of the breaks tested.

”We were going to send it to a lab to see if there’s anything we need to be concerned with, to see what shape it is in and what strength it has,” he said.

At 5 a.m. Sunday, city workers were alerted to water bubbling through the ground on Groveland Street in the area of Crowell Street, a few blocks east of Merrimack Valley Hospital.

”It was a fairly small leak of an 8-inch pipe, but it was enough that it required repairs,” Ward said.

Traffic was detoured onto side streets while repairs were being made, he said. The leak was repaired and back-filled by 11 a.m. About 50,000 gallons of water were lost, he said.

Workers were still at the Groveland Street site at 9 a.m. when the city was notified of another water main break at an apartment complex at 440 North Ave. Minutes later, the city was notified of another break on Boardman Street. Ward had to call in additional Water Department workers, while the Highway Department sent workers and a back hoe.

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