December 20, 2012

Broken main a symptom of Portland's aging pipes

The budget for upkeep falls far short of the need, leading to ruptures and boil-water orders like the one lifted Thursday.

By Eric Russell
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

A 20-inch water main break at 128 Somerset St. in Portland's Bayside neighborhood Wednesday, December 19, 2012. Wednesday's rupture of a century-old water main that flooded Somerset Street, disrupted 4,000 homes and businesses and prompted a 24-hour boil-water notice exposed a stark reality: Most of Portland's water pipes are old.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Portland Water District crews work to repair a 20-inch water main break at 128 Somerset St. in Portland's Bayside neighborhood Wednesday, December 19, 2012.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

Jaci Rubchinuk, general manager of the Five Guys restaurant on Fore Street, said she was able to serve the lunch crowd Wednesday by using bottled water but the restaurant closed after that, losing the day's dinner business.

"We had to hustle to get ready Thursday morning," she said. "But we don't want to be the business that takes a chance. We'll have to make up the loss somewhere else."

Some businesses didn't miss a beat.

Darcy Hanson, a manager at the Ri Ra Irish Pub on Commercial Street, said the staff worked hard Wednesday morning to get ready for the lunch crowd.

"We started boiling water right away. We worked diligently with our vendors. We got I don't know how many pounds of ice" because the pub couldn't use its own, she said. "Our staff handled it great."

The broken pipe was repaired by 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, but other damage on Somerset Street is still being assessed, Clements said. She could not say how much repairs will cost or exactly what caused the line to rupture.

The biggest cost to the district, she said, will be to repave Somerset Street, which suffered significant damage from flooding. That work was just getting under way Thursday.

Many cars that were parked in Bayside when the main broke sustained water damage.

The water district recommends that anyone who suffered damage file a claim with their insurance company. Claims also can be filed with the water district, but the utility is generally exempt from liability unless negligence is proven.

Norton said Cozy Harbor likely will file an insurance claim, but he's not convinced it will do any good.

"The last time this happened (in 1996), it wasn't covered," he said.

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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