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Breaks highlight Rotterdam water issues

Breaks highlight Rotterdam water issues

Town plans testing and engineering study
Breaks highlight Rotterdam water issues
Water pours from a crack in Curry Road in front of Mazzone's Restaurant in Rotterdam after a water main break in January.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

ROTTERDAM -- The town plans to get to the bottom of failures in a 24-inch water main along Curry Road that broke again after midnight Sunday morning, interrupting water service to about half the town.

Water main breaks aren't new to Rotterdam or any other community with decades-old water and sewer systems, but the latest failure happened in a section of water main that's been plagued with problems.

The Sunday morning's rupture was within a hundred feet of where the line broke twice last winter, each time leading to a boil-water order for most of the town's thousands of water customers. The most recent order was imposed Sunday, after service was restored, and was lifted Tuesday morning after testing found no contamination caused by the break.

Town Supervisor Steven Tommasone said the town plans to work with a water engineer to determine whether there's an underlying problem with the line and to recommend the best way to address any such problem.

The new break, he said, is likely related to the fact that the line broke twice last winter, when bitter cold followed by thawing caused the ground around the pipe to shift. The troubled section of pipe is near Curry Road and Altamont Avenue -- the heart of the town's commercial zone -- and the pipe is located directly under the road, meaning traffic vibrations could also contribute to problems.

"Potentially, we would be relocating that section of pipe to another area," Tommasone said. "That section of pipe near Curry and Altamont needs to somehow have more redundancy."

Town Highway Superintendent Larry Lamora said a section of the broken pipe is being sent to a laboratory to determine if there's a defect in the metal.

Lamora said he got the call about the break at 12:15 a.m. Sunday, and he and town workers remained at the scene until about 7:30 p.m., when the pipe had been excavated, repaired, and the road, which is state Route 7 and is used by about 12,500 vehicles per day, was repaired. A private gravel contractor provided an excavator, and a private paving contractor came on Monday to finish repairs.

"It was hard, but the men of Rotterdam worked together, stayed until the job got done," he said.

Lamora said he didn't know what the repairs cost as of this week.

"Everything was handled in an emergency situation to get this done as fast as possible," he said.

State and Schenectady County Health Department testing protocols meant the boil-water order had to remain in place until Tuesday, after water from the pipe tested bacteria-free for two days in a row. The order affected all municipal customers except those in Rotterdam Junction, who have a separate water supply. Some customers lost water service entirely for a time on Sunday.

There are plans for $5 million in water main upgrades already moving forward, but Tommasone said that money won't directly address the troubled area. Instead, the town is likely to draw on reserves to make long-term fixes, though he said the cost of a permanent fix isn't known. If the cost is too high, he said, the town will pursue state grant money.

The $5 million project, which is being paid for with state funds, will replace the large water main between the town's well fields off Campbell Road and the commercial corridor. It will also pay for replacement equipment at the water treatment plant. Work could start later this year, though it probably won't conclude until 2019.

"We've been working on that now for a couple of years," Tommasone said.

The town's water infrastructure generally dates from the early 1960s.

Rotteram is also talking with officials in Guilderland and Schenectady about establishing more cross-connections that could be employed in emergencies so the entire town wouldn't be affected when a main breaks. There's already an interconnection with Guilderland, while an interconnection with Schenectady will be part of the construction project underway on Hamburg Street. Tommasone said he'd like to see more interconnections established.

The water main break, before it was repaired, led to a drop in water pressure on the eastern side of town -- a potential nuisance for residents, but a bigger problem if a fire broke out.

"These kinds of breaks are challenging and upsetting because businesses can't operate without the water, and people can't take care of their families without the water," Tommasone said. "Nothing is lost on us. We understand how people feel."

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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