The rapid onset and fierce grip of icy weather on the Hudson Valley has crews from Kingston’s Water Department and Department of Public Works scrambling to deal with a rash of water main breaks.
“Whenever you have extreme cold and a rapid prolonged freeze, you get soil shifting and pipes breaking,” said Kingston Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen. “And that’s what we’re experiencing now.”
Crews from the department spent that last day of 2017 focusing on fixing a break in a water main on Quarry Street that serves Bailey Middle School. The water main, laid sometime around 1968, runs through solid bedrock. Hansen said that the rock muted the sound of rushing water and foiled efforts to use ground microphones and a computer correlator borrowed from the Town of Ulster to locate the break. Crews also had to contend with icy temperatures that froze workers and machinery alike as they sought to locate and fix the break. Crews were also delayed by several hours waiting for Central Hudson to show up and map out a gas main running through the site. Hansen explained that the utility was overwhelmed by the volume of calls from municipalities in the region dealing with their own water system woes. Over the course of three days, members of the department’s 10-person field staff supported by workers from DPW and the Town of Ulster water department spent 30 hours working to locate and repair the break, finally wrapping up the job around 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
“As breaks go, it wasn’t terrible,” said Hansen. “But finding it was a challenge and conditions we had to work in were terrible.”
No sooner had the crews rested up from the Quarry Street job than they were on their way to the next crisis, new line breaks at Linderman Avenue and Emerson Street. Hansen said in addition to the line breaks, crews were busy responding to freeze-ups in lateral water lines connecting customers to the city’s water supply.
“We’re busy and I expect we’ll stay busy,” said Hansen.