Boil water order in Putney due to water line break

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PUTNEY — A boil water order is in place until Wednesday or longer for the southern half of the village because of a water line break on Main Street Sunday evening.

Town Manager Karen Astley said Monday the break came in a service line to a home across from the Putney Post Office, and it took all night for town employees and contractors to make the repairs.

She said a total of 53 structures, including 16 commercial buildings, are affected by the boil water order. She said those include a senior housing unit, two housing complexes and multiple multi-family units, and one motel. She said the area was without water for about 10 hours on Sunday night through Monday morning.

The boil water order is for all homes and businesses south of Christian Square or the Putney Post Office.

One of those businesses is the Putney Food Co-op, which said it is not currently using the water from the town system but has posted the warning.

Kari Smith, a grocery clerk at the store, said the co-op's deli has been closed since the coronavirus pandemic started, and that it doesn't even make coffee any more.

"There's a public notice not to drink and not to wash things," she said, while noting the co-op is selling bottled water .

Astley said luckily the water line break wasn't in the eight-inch main itself, but where an individual service line joins the main, which she called "the saddle."

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"It would have been a lot worse," she said, noting town crews worked through the night until 5 a.m. to make the repairs.

She said she was first notified by Putney Fire Chief Tom Goddard shortly before 7 p.m. that they were on the scene and starting to assess the problem.

In addition to Goddard, Putney Highway Foreman Brian Harlow and the town's water and wastewater contractors, Simons Operations Services, including operator Joe Tetreault and contractor Chris Hayes, were on the scene.

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Astley said there is a lot of pressure on the service line connections from the water main, as the water is forced from an eight-inch pipe into one that is one- to three-inches in diameter.

Water was shut off around 7 p.m. Sunday because of the break, and was turned back on 5 a.m. Monday morning.

But she said a boil-water-order is in place until at least Wednesday, pending the outcome of tests sent to the Vermont Department of Health.

Astley said one thing in the town's favor is that the water system has been chlorinated since March when Gov. Phil Scott issued an executive order that all municipal water systems be chlorinated because of the coronavirus, which can cause COVID-19.

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She said the water line break would have affected the town's largest water user — Landmark College — since it is on the northern half of the municipal system, but the college is currently closed for in-person classes because of the pandemic. The town's water system is fed by a well on Sand Hill, Astley said, and is gravity-fed.

She said it appears the break in the service line has been going on for a while, but the town's water usage monitors did not register a large spike, which usually indicates a leak.

The boil water order, which was issued Monday morning, requires that any water used for drinking, cooking and washing be boiled for one minute, and then allowed to cool. People may used bottled water as well, Astley said.

She said Hayes drove a water sample up to the Department of Health Monday morning for testing.

Hayes, whose company manages about 25 different small water systems in the state, said the Putney system is relatively new, having been installed around 1996. He said the broken line dated to that time.

He said the Putney system ordinarily does not require chlorination, but has been under the emergency gubernatorial order since late March. He said the state ordered the chlorination "out of an abundance of caution" but it would likely stop in the near future.

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