BRATTLEBORO -- A water main broke under Linden Street early Monday morning causing traffic delays along Route 30.
Pressure within the piping system caused by flushing of the water mains blew a six inch hole in a steel pipe and flooded the upper part of Linden Street above the Brattleboro Retreat.
The pipe broke at around 3 a.m., sending thousands of gallons of water into the street and down the hill.
Water and debris flowed down the hill and into the Brattleboro Retreat parking lot and a number of homes and businesses in the area were without water during the morning.
"It's going to happen," Department of Public Works Director Steve Barrett. "It's part of running a public water system."
During the morning commute traffic was diverted up toward Cedar Street and during the morning only one lane of traffic was open on Linden Street.
Crews worked all morning on the problem.
By the late morning crews removed the cracked pipe and had replaced it with a new piece.
Barrett pointed to a long crack on the broken pipe, which he said was probably 100 years old.
"This is older pipe," he said. "It was probably already stressed and cracked and this caused a complete failure."
The town flushes its public water system two times a year, and while he said a pipe does not burst every time, it is expected that the older pipes in town can sometimes crack during the process.
It takes the town about 17 days to flush the entire system.
"It puts stress on the system when we are flushing water mains," Barrett said. "We're flowing large volumes of water, and we're opening and closing valves and its puts pressure on the system. If there are weak points in the system this is when they give."
The older pipes are also not really built for the heavier loads that modern trucks and vehicles carry over the pipes.
About 25 percent of the town's distribution system is made up of the older cast iron pipes, which Barrett said are more likely to fail when the town is flushing the system.
The rest of the system has been upgraded over the years.
Barrett said the water main break will cost the town about $6,000, which he said is figured in to the water budget.
"Most of our system is in pretty good shape," Barrett said. "Usually we have a break every few years, but we hope we don't get another one this time."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard @HowardReformer.