More than a week after a May 1 pipe break disrupted water supply in metropolitan Boston and forced two million residents to boil drinking water for 53 hours, authorities and contractors are trying to retrieve a critical pipe connector—which likely may manifest clues as to what caused the break—as well as documents detailing how upgrades to the affected pipe section were designed and installed more than a decade ago.
The rupture in a 150-ft section of pipe that carries water from the Quabbin reservoir forced the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) to quickly repair and reconnect the system. “We never lost water service,” says Ria Convery, an MWRA spokeswoman. But hundreds of millions of gallons of water spilling into the Charles River likely buried the 10-ft-dia, 1,400-lb pipe “collar” so deep in river sediment that it had yet to be found by May 10. MWRA contracted Barletta Engineering Corp., Canton, Mass., to handle pipe repair and dredging, including use of magnetic resonance imaging technology.
MWRA was set on May 12 to present its board with prospective candidates as well as marching orders for an independent commission to probe the rupture. “[MWRA] can’t yet say the collar failed,” says Convery, but local media reports have been pointing to past problems with collars manufactured by MWRA vendor Victaulic, Easton, Pa. But firm spokesman Eric Luftig says, “We are waiting for more information on the system design and how the coupling was applied.”