Damage assessed after flooding from water main break

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BRATTLEBORO — A large water leak caused problems downtown and kept crews busy from about 3 p.m. Tuesday to 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Brattleboro Bicycle Shop co-owner Tim Chock said the water main had "burst in the street right in front of our store and filled it up."

"What's mainly affected is the basement of my store," he said Wednesday at about noon. "We haven't had the power turned on yet. It really hasn't been looked into all that much. We're still trying to get an electrician to come."

Chock said the basement of his shop at 165 Main St. had a couple of inches of wet mud and all the bicycles down there had been under water. Bikes upstairs had not been affected but some downstairs were ruined.

The extent of the damage "remains to be seen," Chock said. "The assessment begins right now."

Penelope Wurr could not immediately be reached. Her retail shop at 167 Main St. is where the town's Department of Public Works' utilities crew discovered a broken sprinkler valve that is said to be the cause of the leak.

DPW Director Steve Barrett said water filled the basements and the fire department helped pump it out. He described the building as a duplex with two separate cellars.

His department's Utilities Division estimates that about 160,000 gallons of water was discharged from the valve. On Wednesday, the utilities crew removed damaged sidewalk and filled in sections with gravel.

"There were several sections that were undermined," Barrett said. "We're concerned about safety."

At about noon Wednesday, he said, "We've pretty much stabilized everything at this point."

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The department reported that one of the water main control valves broke Tuesday, causing a small leak that made for icy conditions at the intersection of Main Street and High Street. The highway crew was expected to keep monitoring and salting the area until the utilities crew could complete the repairs. Barrett said a storm in the forecast could delay work until next week.

Orly Munzing, executive director of the Strolling of the Heifers, said her group was waiting for the insurance adjuster to come and assess the damage to its space known as the Robert H. Gibson River Garden at 157 Main St.

"It was certainly a nightmare but we are grateful and appreciative that nothing worse happened," she wrote in an email. "We are fortunate to have our energetic staff and volunteers helping and to John Brunelle and his staff for coming here instantly and bringing equipment and manpower to help with sump pumps, generators and the necessary equipment to avoid more damage. Our sheetrock was partially removed this morning by Brunelle & Son [Construction] crew so that it can properly dry. Brunelle & Son brought many fans and humidifiers to help the drying process."

Munzing said the Brattleboro fire, police and public works departments "were great and helped us as well, and we are so appreciative of their efforts to assess the problem and take care of the stores and building affected."

"We are fortunate that this happened on a warm day!" she added.

Barrett said about six DPW employees worked until 3 a.m. Wednesday then reported back to the scene at 7 a.m.

"So they had a short night," he said.

This is not the first time Barrett has seen such destruction.

"Water's pretty powerful," he said. "In the winter time, everything's colder. It's more difficult to get the water main set down. So water can do a lot of damage in a short period of time."

Barrett expects affected people will work with insurance companies in assessing damages, then with contractors in making the repairs.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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