UPDATE: Wednesday sees second water main break in two days in Middlebury
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8:30 p.m. to add the news that water service will remain suspended on Thursday for the 10 or 12 Washington Street businesses served by the broken water main.
MIDDLEBURY — Just two days after a messy water main break in Court Square in downtown Middlebury closed off part of Route 7 and snarled traffic, another water main just a block away on Washington Street burst, flooded the street and closed part of the street all day.
As of 7 p.m. on Wednesday, around eight workers from the town of Middlebury road and water departments were still at the site of Washington street Break trying to fix the pipe. A hole at least 10 feet deep was opened in front of the Vermont Federal Credit Union building, a few paces east of Court Square. One worker down in the hole was conferring with colleagues at street level and measuring the size of replacement pipe that would be needed.
The 12-inch water main broke early Wednesday morning, sending water bubbling up under the asphalt and down the Street west to Green Peppers restaurant on the corner of Buttolph Drive. Muddy water also flowed down into the parking lot of the Shaw’s supermarket.
Unlike the 8-inch pipe that broke under Court Square on Monday, the Washington Street main did not break because of age. A worker on site speculated that corrosive soil may have been to blame. The 12-inch main did connect to the older 8-inch main, but there was no indication that the two breaks were anything more than a coincidence.
At a little past 8 p.m. on Wednesday town workers determined that the pipe may be compromised in several more spots and they determined it was best to wait until heavy equipment could be moved in in the morning to further excavate. As a result, they alerted the 10 or 12 businesses that had lost water service on Wednesday that the water would not be turned on Thursday morning. It was hoped that the water could be restored sometime on Thursday, but a town employee said it could take a couple days to fix the pipe.
That also means that Washington Street from the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op to Court Square will remain closed, and won’t open until sometime Thursday at the earliest.
Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner could not be reached for comment late on Wednesday. But Town Manager Kathleen Ramsey did not remember two major water line breaks coming one right after the other.
“It certainly is unusual to have two so close together,” she said.
Traffic was closed on the westernmost block of Washington Street all day. About 10 or 12 businesses did not have access to tap water on Wednesday.
On Wednesday evening, town workers appeared to be moving with all due speed, even after putting a 14-hour day on Monday fixing the first pipe break. One worker on site said they had got the Washington Street pipe patched but when they turned on the pressure it was clear that there was another leak that had to be repaired. He said he hoped they could get the pipe repaired and the road put back together on Wednesday night.
About an hour later, after the second hole was repaired that workers restarted the flow of water into the 12-inch, ductal iron main, that workers noticed that water pressure dropped. They understood that to mean that there was at least one more leak further down the line, possibly more. That’s when they opted to call in help from a bigger construction company to help support the soil around the 10-foot-deep repair trench so that it wouldn’t collapse.
One piece of asphalt near the 15-foot long hole in Washington Street clearly was cracked and falling in as a sinkhole had opened up under it.