Major break sends Salem water gushing

SALEM – In a bit of deja vu dating back to October 2011, city crews were trying to fix a major water leak on New Garden Avenue Thursday night that left the street flooded and the road heaved up in spots.

The break also left some residents without water and most of the city with low water pressure for several hours, which created a different kind of flood as the police phone lines lit up nonstop. The fire department also had to respond to alarms triggered at industrial sites due to the low water pressure.

City Assistant Utilities Superintendent Matt Hoopes said the problem was caused when a 16-inch main water line blew at New Garden Avenue sometime between 5 and 5:30 p.m.

The street quickly filled with water, forcing police to shut down New Garden between Railroad Street and Mullins Street and at Prospect Street. Once the water receded after valves were shut off in that area, the section of street between Railroad and Prospect streets was reopened.

Salem Police Lt. Dave Casto said it appeared the street would remain closed today as crews worked on the water line throughout the night and were expected to continue today.

Hoopes said Thursday night that once they had the area valved off, crews would have to dig down and determine whether they could clamp off the damaged section or cut out the section of pipe and replace it. Shutting off the valves in different spots isolates the area and then water can come off of the Highland Avenue tank.

He said they’ll have to work with the street department to return the street back to normal after repairs are finished.

Four years ago when the city was in the midst of a paving project, the 16-inch water main split open in the same general area. City Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said the water line had been installed around 1946 and the break was about 6 feet long, requiring workers to replace 13 feet of pipe. In order to do the work, 12 valves had to be shut down and workers spent 12 hours on repairs. At that time in 2011, he estimated the water loss at 870,000 gallons.

No estimate was available for the water loss this time, but Hoopes estimated a loss of possibly 200,000 gallons in the first couple hours.

Back in 2011, street department workers dug down about 2 feet in the section of New Garden between Mullins and Prospect streets, then used road grindings to rebuild the road base before it was paved as part of the paving project.

Officials at the time said they were lucky it happened before the road had been repaved.