Crews repair Marlboro Road water main break

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BRATTLEBORO — A water main break at 10 p.m. on Wednesday resulted in the loss of more than 500,000 gallons of drinking water, said Steve Barrett, director of Brattleboro's Department of Public Works.

"When we got the alarm, we were losing about 6,000 gallons a minute," said Barrett, about the break that occurred under Marlboro Road, just west of the Dollar General.

"About the same time, we started getting calls that water was coming up through the road," he said.

Excavating down about six feet, the crew dispatched to the break discovered a vintage 1906 water main had cracked open and was spilling water, which eventually bubbled to the surface before making its way to a field behind Dollar General and draining into the Whetstone Brook.

The 16-inch water main is one of two that provides water treated at the Pleasant Valley Water Treatment Facility to Brattleboro. The water mains run parallel to each other in this location, said Barrett, before they begin to branch off to different areas of town.

"This is the older of the two," said Barrett.

Initially, residential areas at higher elevations lost water because of the drop in pressure, he said, but once the crews located the break and were able to isolate it by shutting off control valves, water service was quickly restored to most of the town. Homes in Edward Heights were without water a little longer until all the repairs were completed.

"We've flushed out those water mains and we are in good shape," said Barrett.

He recommended that people in homes that were affected flush their lines by running their cold water.

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"Don't run your hot water because the discoloration can get into your water heater," he noted.

A portion of Route 9 was severely damaged as a result of the leak, said Barrett, with traffic in both directions being diverted through a nearby parking lot.

With a water system as old as the one in Brattleboro, water main breaks are expected and written into the town's utilities budget, which is funded by residents and businesses hooked up to the water and sewer system.

Barrett said there is no plan to replace the town's water mains, a project that could cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

"This repair, when all is said and done, will cost the utility budget about $30,000," said Barrett.

In the 1980s, this water main was cleaned and lined with cement and new valves were installed.

"We may have issues or breaks, but by doing a cost analysis, we decided it's best to keep the old main," said Barrett. "In the future, we may install a liner to give the line more integrity, but overall, we have a really good system in place."

Once the splice was repaired, the hole was filled back in and the road was repaired with a temporary patch.

"There will be a bump in the road but we need to let it settle out with traffic running over it until we do a more permanent repair," said Barrett.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or


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