The village of Essex Jct. is regrouping after a major line break last week forced an overnight boil-water advisory for some residents.
Public works staff began receiving calls around 3 a.m. last Thursday alerting them to a water main break on Densmore Drive. Once staff arrived, it took about three hours to shut the line out because the gauge valves were frozen, according to public works superintendent Rick Jones.
Meanwhile, 2.1 million gallons of water spilled out onto the road, depleting the Champlain Water District tank that feeds the line until some houses in the northwestern part of the village lost water pressure.
Jones said public works sometimes encounters “ring breaks,” which can be repaired with a band that circles the broken part of the pipe. But this break forced staff to cut out an entire portion of the 12-inch pipe and replace it with a new section.
“It was massive. That’s the biggest one I’ve seen in my career,” Jones, a 29-year public works employee, said of the break.
Without water, the town offices closed Thursday, and both Essex High School and the Center for Technology sent students home around 10 a.m.
The village issued a precautionary boil-water notice around 3:45 p.m. Thursday, indicating there was a “strong possibility” that water supplies for customers who experienced low or no water pressure were contaminated.
Jones said the advisory was an attempt to be “extra cautious.” He noted testing by Champlain Water District shortly after public works turned the water back on around 6 p.m. showed no contaminants, and a subsequent test the following day showed the same. The village lifted the advisory around 9:40 p.m. Friday.
Jones said his department is now focused on repairing the area of Densmore Drive that suffered major damage. As of Monday afternoon, he said the department is close to reopening the section of road near the intersection with Route 15 that was impacted the most.
The village is now working with a contractor that will drive to Massachusetts to obtain hot mix for pavement, since there’s no place locally to find it during the winter months, Jones said. He hoped to lay at least a base coat this winter.
“We appreciate everybody’s patience during this time, and sorry for any convenience,” Jones said.
He added one of the biggest takeaways from the event is communication with the public.
Community relations assistant Darby Mayville led the outreach effort, posting to various social media websites and sending it out emails to those signed up for updates on the village website. Some residents commented on Mayville’s posts thanking her for the updates, and Jones lauded her efforts.
Still, the village offices were inundated with phone calls throughout Friday from people — including some that don’t live in the village — wondering if their water was safe to drink.
Staff now plan meet Friday to discuss more outreach options during situations like these.