Aerial views of Irene’s aftermath in Bennington County and Wilmington, Vt., taken Tuesday, Aug. 30 by Bennington Banner staffer Austin Danforth.
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON – Town officials said a plan to keep water flowing is working, but additional destruction of water system infrastructure was found Wednesday that will add to the cost and time it will take to refurbish the system.
Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd said a reserve of 1.5 million gallons of water should remain in a 3 million gallon tank on Chapel hill after the Water Department was able to pump enough water from the Morgan Spring to cover daily usage under conservation practices. The town will continue to pump water into the large tank nightly from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. until the water main, severed by the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, can be patched.
“We were able to pump 300,000 gallons back into the 3 million gallon tank over night last night,” Hurd said. “Current low-flow … in the town is about 300,000 to 400,000 gallons a day. So, we, in effect, appear to be able to meet that daily demand, which means the tank remains at 1.5 million gallons as an emergency situation. What that means, potentially, is that when the work in Woodford is finished, and we can do the testing regimes, the connection to the town’s system from Woodford would be without any boil water order.”
Water conservation efforts by town residents and businesses “remains paramount,” however, Hurd said.
“The schools not opening for a week is a Godsend,” he said.
The town’s water filtration plant east of town in Woodford has been cut off from the town since Sunday. A bridge on Route 9 was washed out by raging flood waters, snapping the pipe. Another section about a half-mile down Route 9 was also destroyed, Hurd said.
Crews working on the Bennington Bypass project were redirected Wednesday to begin work on replacing the water main. Officials had hoped to begin putting new pipe in place Wednesday, but the new sections of pipe were delayed and not expected to arrive until Thursday. Hurd said work is now expected to be completed late Friday.
Water must then be tested to ensure there is no bacterial growth after a 24-hour incubation period. Testing facilities in Vermont are not available, Hurd said, so the town will look to send samples to labs in the Albany, N.Y. area.
“That means we’re into the weekend before we’ll know whether or not we can turn the system on without a boil water order. If in fact something goes wrong, such as we find additional leaks in that line that we’re now not aware of, or we can’t meet the chlorine residual requirements, most likely we would then, after 24 hours notice, probably on Tuesday, if we can connect to the system, we will connect with a boil water order,” Hurd said.
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON — Bennington officials are hoping to begin repairing a broken water main that has separated the town from its water filtration plant in Woodford by noon Wednesday. Meanwhile, they worked on a plan Tuesday to keep water flowing to homes and businesses during the restoration efforts.
Bennington Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd said Tuesday morning that at least 17 homes in Woodford, on the eastern side of the washed out bridge, were without water. Town staff delivered bottled water to those homes, he said.
A 3 million gallon tank on Chapel Road that serves most of town was dwindling, but Hurd said water department staff were planning to pump water from the Morgan Spring back into the tank late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning when demand decreased. He said the water system was designed to redirect water to the tank and can be filled enough each night to provide a day’s worth of water to the town.
“We know the pump system will work,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vermont Pure, which has a contract to pump water from Morgan Spring for bottling, will bring 8,000 to to 16,000 gallons of water per day to a smaller tank serving Burgess and Barney Roads.
Work will begin Wednesday on installing several hundred yards of above-ground, temporary water main to reconnect the filtration plant. Once completed, the town will “blow out” the line to clean it, heavily chlorinate it and then begin state-required testing.
“That will provide the connection to the municipal system downtown. At the same time, we’ll be working to make sure that the intake is clear and that it is functioning properly. If that is not we’ve made arrangements to receive a large pump that will pump directly from the Bolles Brook into the filtration plant,” Hurd said.
It is possible the system could be returned to normal this weekend, according to Hurd.
“If everything goes the way we hope it will go we’ll be able to turn that system on Saturday morning without a boil order. We’ll be back to normal,” he said.
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON — Officials at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center said the hospital has made adjustments to its practices to help conserve water and has rearranged staff to provide medical services to residents stuck in the Deerfield Valley.
Spokesman Kevin Robinson said Incident Command Staff have been monitoring the situation in Bennington and Windham Counties since 10 a.m. Sunday and keeping in contact with town and state emergency management officials.
A water shortage caused by the breaking of a water main carrying potable water to Bennington from the town’s water filtration plant in Woodford is a major issue. Providing medical services to the Wilmington area, where the hospital operates the only medical practice, is also a major concern, he said.
Robinson said the hospital is taking steps to prepare for reduced water pressure or a loss of water. He said the facility is hoping to reduce its 75,000-gallon daily usage by at least half.
“Our estimate is that we can cut our water use in half. We may be able to cut it further,” he said.
Bennington residents must also conserve, however, Robinson said.
“Water conservation in Bennington is not about convenience. This is really important for this community at the moment. It’s really important that people do everything they can to conserve water for this community,” he said.
All elective and endoscopy services at the hospital will be canceled as of Wednesday. He said hospital officials will review when those services can resume on a day-to-day basis.
All renal dialysis patients are being sent to the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass., and the Rutland Regional Medical Center starting today, Robinson said.
Additional efforts to conserve water include:
- Closing bathrooms that do not have water conserving toilets or fixtures
- Shutting off drinking fountains, ice machines and water coolers in staff areas
- Switching to waterless patient care products, such as waterless hand sanitizer
- Where possible, minimizing bathing of patients
- Shutting off birthing tubs.
- Using disposable dishes for patients as well as staff.
- Limiting use of in-house laundry whenever possible.
- Discontinuing all non-essential water-based cleaning of rooms and facilities.
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON — Bennington officials said Tuesday morning that the water main delivering potable water to the town should be replaced by Thursday evening or Friday morning. In the meantime, residents are being urged to conserve as much as possible as they execute contingency plans to keep water flowing to homes.
Bennington Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd said at least 17 homes on the eastern side of Bennington had already lost water pressure Tuesday morning. Town staff are planning to bring a case of water to those homes.
“The 3 million gallon tank is continuing to drop. It is the primary tank that is providing sufficient pressure to get water to places like the hospital, the industrial areas, those kinds of things. So, we’re most likely looking at Thursday evening, Friday morning,” Hurd said.
Vermont Pure, which has a contract to pump water from the Morgan Spring for bottling, will provide “a couple of tankers on a as-needed basis.” The town is looking to use one in the area of Burgess and Barney Roads where people have lost water, Hurd said.
Water should be available to nearly everyone for the next two days until the water main can be replaced, Hurd said. However, residents must conserve as much water as possible, he said.
“We’re talking about: Don’t do laundry. Don’t wash your car. Don’t use water excessively. Please be hygienic. Don’t withhold those basic kind of hygienic needs. If you can flush your toilet on alternate uses, those kinds of things, that’s great.,” he said.
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON — Daylight in Southern Vermont Monday exposed receding flood waters but also provided a clearer picture of widespread damage from raging rivers caused Sunday by Irene’s heavy rains.
State and local officials across the state were surveying damage Monday and beginning to plan for restoring public and private infrastructure. Roads and bridges across a large swath of the state were washed out or compromised. Flood waters washed out homes businesses, and several people were missing or already confirmed dead, including a young woman in Wilmington, who was swept away by the violent, angry Deerfield River.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin had already declared a state of emergency, and President Barack Obama followed suit Monday morning, signing a disaster declaration because of the statewide devastation.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Vermont National Guard Adjutant General Michael Dubie toured the affected areas of the state by helicopter Monday. They touched down in Bennington around 3 p.m. after an aerial view of Bennington and Windham Counties, two of the hardest hit areas of the state.
“It’s just devastating – the human loss. As you know, we’re continuing to receive more bad news about some casualties. Our hearts go out to the families that have lost loved ones. But then you have the extraordinary property loss – houses, businesses, churches, roads and bridges, rail infrastructure. This is unprecedented, I think, in Vermont,” Shumlin said. “We still are notifying family members of some of the casualties, but I can tell you that we have more bad news coming in terms of deaths as a result of this horrific storm.”
It was too early Monday to determine the cost of damages, how long it would take to recover, or even which town was impacted the most, Shumlin said.
“The bottom line is Vermont was devastated from the Massachusetts border all the way up through central Vermont and it’s hard to pick the biggest loser,” he said. “It’s multiple millions of dollars. This is the greatest natural disaster to hit Vermont, certainly in 80 years, perhaps ever, and we’re going to work together.”