May 2, 2010 in Nation/World

Boston, suburbs boiling water

Order affects 700,000 households after pipe break
Jay Lindsay Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Water surges from the ground at the site of a water main break Saturday in Weston, Mass.
(Full-size photo)

BOSTON – A “catastrophic” break Saturday in a relatively new, 10-foot-wide steel pipe rendered the water undrinkable in Boston and more than two dozen of its suburbs, forcing Gov. Deval Patrick to declare a state of emergency.

The state issued an order for residents to boil water before drinking it in the 30 affected communities, which include 2 million people in 700,000 households.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority was able to draw emergency water supplies from various reservoirs for bathing, flushing and fire protection. That water isn’t treated for drinking, so the state issued the boil-water order.

Authority head Frederick Laskey called the break “highly unusual and catastrophic in nature,” and said it came at a critical point in the system – a tunnel that’s on the main supply route to Boston and delivers 200 million to 400 million gallons a day.

The leak was reported at 10 a.m. in Weston, about 10 miles west of Boston, and it took hours for officials to stop its tremendous flow of water. The pipe was empty by Saturday evening and repairs began, but Laskey said it’s not an easy fix. He said he hoped it could be repaired in “days, not weeks.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the boil water order would remain in effect until the repairs were completed.

“This is a complex area of piping,” Laskey said. “It’s a large pipe. It was probably custom-made. So it’s not as if there’s a yard we can go and pick one up and just go and put it in. It’s a big problem.”

Laskey said the pipe was “relatively new” – installed less than a decade ago to connect a newer tunnel to the older system – and the state will be investigating why it failed.

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