EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 9, 2013

Did earthquake weaken water pipes, causing leaks?

City officials ponder theory about problems with water mains


People in the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire said they felt the earthquake’s rumble.

While earthquakes are rare in New England, they’re not unheard of, according to the Associated Press. In 2006 there was a series of earthquakes around Maine’s Acadia National Park, including one with a magnitude of 4.2 that caused boulders to fall from ledges onto the park’s loop road. One of the park’s trails was closed for three years because of damage from the quake.

Yesterday, just two days after the city experienced water main breaks in three different neighborhoods, Northern Essex Community College announced it was closing due to a break in a water main that serves the campus. The Haverhill campus is expected to reopen today at noon.

Ward said his department was notified of the break at 2:20 p.m. yesterday. He said a work crew was sent to the campus to shut down the line so that repairs could begin. The break occurred in an 8-inch water line that is beneath the basketball court at the rear of the campus, he said. Repairs were expected to be completed by 11 p.m. last night, he said.

On Sunday, three water mains in the city sprang leaks within a short period of time, causing Ward to scramble work crews and call in additional help and equipment. He said the leaks on Sunday were likely the result of recent temperature fluctuations causing expansion and contraction of soil and pipes. The leaks baffled Ward, who said he could not recall so many leaks happening in such a short period of time.

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. Ward said a broken 8-inch pipe was repaired and back-filled by 11 a.m. About 50,000 gallons of water were lost, he said.

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