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Pamelia waterline break likely caused by local construction workers

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A waterline break Monday night on Route 37 in Pamelia that likely was caused by a construction company that misused a fire hydrant could cost the town anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 in repairs.

About 50 customers lost water service with the break, which was reported at 9 p.m. south of Route 342.

Officials found another break in the line about a half mile south Monday night — across from Willowbrook Golf Course — and a third break a half mile farther south was reported at 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Workers from P&T Water Supply & Services, Watertown, repaired the lines to restore service by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The state Department of Health issued a boil-water advisory for residents in water districts four and five because of possible contamination from the break. Residents are advised to boil water used for drinking and cooking until the advisory is lifted, which likely will happen today after the department conducts testing.

Pamelia Highway Superintendent Dennis G. Hoistion said the town has contracts with three local construction companies that routinely draw water from fire hydrants. The problem likely was caused by a construction worker who turned off the valves on a hydrant too quickly, creating a buildup of pressure that broke the line. The additional breaks in the line probably were caused by pressure that accumulated from the first break.

“I don’t think that it was a freak accident,” he said. “We suspect that someone turned off the hydrant too fast and created a water hammer, which happens when water doesn’t have anywhere to go and builds up pressure. That’s what probably popped the joints apart.”

Mr. Hoistion said that he plans to talk with town officials about how to prevent future problems. The town could offer workers training on how to operate the hydrants, or it could decide to ban them from using them. Either way, Mr. Hoistion said, waterline breaks are a costly expense for taxpayers to support.

“I hope the town will give me direction on what to do,” he said. “Either we coach them how to (use the hydrants), or make them completely stop.”

Residents with questions about the boil-water advisory can call the town office at 785-9793.

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