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June 23, 2014

Work begins on $24M Lawrence water system rehab

LAWRENCE — A $24 million reconstruction of the underground pipes that deliver water gets underway July 7, beginning with two streets where fires destroyed rows of homes while firefighters scrambled for water.

The work is not expected to increase water rates, which have not been raised since 2009 and are projected to remain flat through 2019.

Among the first up is Hancock Street, where a fire raced through three homes on April 1, 2013, as firefighters ran hoses to hydrants blocks away because the four-inch pipes under the street were choked by rust and sediment.

Also at the top of the list is Parker Street, where a fire destroyed nearly an entire block on Jan. 23, 2008, in a blaze that sparked the first calls to rebuild the city’s delivery system, parts of which date to the city’s founding in the mid-1800s.

“We’re addressing these issues to avoid something like this from happening again,” said Brian Pena, the city’s newly appointed water and sewer commissioner. “We know what our problem areas are in the water system and we’re working diligently on these issues.”

Cleaning and relining the pipes under Hancock Street and neighboring streets is scheduled to conclude Aug. 8.

The work on Parker Street and on Winthrop and South Union streets will run through Sept. 18.

In other phases of the project scheduled for later this year, pipes under South Union, Garfield, Lawrence, Arlington, Center, Berkley, Prospect, Avon, North Union, Haverhill and Crescent streets will be cleaned and relined with cement or replaced entirely. Pipes under smaller streets adjoining the major boulevards also will be cleaned or replaced.

Another phase of the work next year will reline or replace pipes in the South Lawrence East and downtown neighborhoods, along with the north end of Lawrence Street.

In all, 6.6 miles of the city’s 130 miles of underground water pipes will be repaired or replaced. Some pipes have not been cleaned in as long as 75 years, according to Public Works Director John Isensee.

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