Water main repair underway in Bennington
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON — Replacement water main pipe arrived Thursday and crews began replacing several hundred feet, hoping to have the town reconnected to its water filtration plant in Woodford by late Friday.
Powerful floodwater from Tropical Storm Irene’s rains washed out a bridge on Route 9 Sunday between Bennington and the filtration plant. The collapsed bridge took down a section of water main with it.
Hundreds more feet of pipe were washed out further down Route 9 toward Bennington as well, said Bennington Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd.
Town officials and water department crews have been scrambling since Sunday to keep water flowing to homes and businesses, and to repair the heavily damaged water system infrastructure.
Hurd said Thursday the issue remains a problem, but with materials now available, the plant should soon be back online.
“The water situation still remains our most critical situation. Work is ongoing in Woodford where the water pipe was actually damaged,” Hurd said. “We found an additional 300 feet of damaged pipe that we’re going to have to bridge, but we found it earlier enough that we got it on the truck before it left its supply depot.”
Officials confirmed Wednesday that the water intake for the system located on Bolles Brook is “entirely destroyed,” Hurd said. A pump has since been placed in the City Stream below Bolles Brook, which will feed the water system once it is ready to be reconnected, he said. Water is already being pumped to the plant to test the plant’s systems.
“That work has begun already as we test the facility that has been shut down for five days now. We’ll be testing all of our meters, all of our capabilities there. Ultimately, when we’re satisfied, we’ll pump water into a 1.2-million-gallon tank at the treatment facility itself,” Hurd said.
When the broken water main is ready the water pumped into the tank will be used to flush the repaired line, “super chlorinate it” and perform state-required tests.”
“If everything goes well we might be able to reconnect to the system without a boil water order Sunday morning. If it doesn’t go as well as we hope we’re probably looking at Monday or Tuesday,” Hurd said. “If, by that time, we’re still having problems we would most likely connect the system with a boil water order and go forward because we’re taxing the Morgan Spring system and the pumps there trying to keep pressure and trying to keep water to as many of our customers as possible, including the medical facilities, the assisted care facilities, those folks that absolutely have to have it.”
Odds are improving that a boil water order will not be needed, Hurd said.
“We’re still talking about a 50-50 change of having a boil water order. I’d like to think that is moving toward a 70-30 chance we won’t,” he said.
The town has been keeping water running to nearly all residents by redirecting water from the Morgan Spring to a 3-million-gallon reserve tank on Chapel Road. The tank has about 1.5 million gallons of water in it, according to Hurd.
About 300,000 gallons, about the amount used by the town under conservation practices, was pumped back into the tank Tuesday night from Morgan Spring. Town officials had planned to do the same thing Wednesday night, but the pumps failed, Hurd said. Town water consumption has dropped about 30 percent since officials requested conservation practices on Sunday.
Meanwhile, residential and commercial properties suffered about $4.5 million in damages from the storm, according to an initial estimate developed by town officials. Anyone that suffered damages should call 211 to report it, and document as much as possible, he said.
Town officials are also gathering names of people interested in helping clean up properties affected by flooding. “We’re encouraging you to call us. We’ll put you on a list and we’re going to start to identify our neighborhoods where we might be able to get a dumpster or something in place to take that debris,” Hurd said.
Work continued Thursday to remove “up to 20 feet of deposited material” from the Roaring Branch. Hurd said workers must essentially “recreate the river” that was significantly widened by flooding. The cost is expected to be “substantial,” Hurd said, but is not yet known.
“That work is likely to take months to complete,” he said.
A federal emergency declaration means the 75 percent of the cost should be reimbursed with federal money. Another 12.5 percent should be covered by the state, he said. Discussions with the town’s banks and the Select Board are taking place to determine how to borrow money to cover the local share, Hurd said.
Officials are hoping to have as much debris removed before predicted weekend rain. “We understand that we have rain coming this weekend. We’ve very concerned about that but we don’t want folks panicking. We’ll be monitoring that situation moving forward,” Hurd said.
All town bridges and roads reopened Thursday. Engineers finished assessments and determined that all bridges were structurally sound, according to Hurd.
Officials were also encouraging residents and visitors to begin normal activities. Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette said the Garlic Fest slated for the weekend will go on, as well as other local events.
“Our goal is to normalize Bennington and make all of the Bennington residents feel as though they’re safe. There’s a lot of different events going on this weekend,” Doucette said. “There’s a high school football game Friday night. There’s a (Southern Vermont Storm football) game Saturday night. Come out and enjoy the town. We feel as though we’re ready.”
Bennington has also been placed on a “resource list” as being able to help assist other towns, Doucette said. “Now that we’re somewhat normalized and stable and we want to be able to help out,” he said.
Contact Neal P. Goswami at email@example.com