Kennebec Water District crews work May 3 to fix a water main break on Kennedy Memorial Drive. The break cut water supply to nearby businesses and residences. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — The Kennebec Water District ran into a big problem while trying to repair two, separate water main breaks on Kennedy Memorial Drive this week and last:

It discovered two large concrete structures underground that hold pillars for traffic signal arms at the entrance to Shaw’s Plaza, and those concrete structures were built directly over the 12-inch water main when the plaza was developed in 1990. That made it impossible to repair the main breaks.

So, the Water District has been working with the city, state Department of Transportation and others to develop a plan to identify the best solution and the district plans to reroute the pipe around the concrete.

Roger Crouse, KWD’s general manager, said Thursday afternoon that a contractor is available to come in next week to reroute the main and the work is expected to take about a week.

Meanwhile, traffic will be able to enter and exit Shaw’s Plaza next week, but traffic will be delayed in that area while work is being done.

“We will be blocking the flow of traffic in the turn-in lane while the contractor does that,” Crouse said.


On Friday, the water main broke just east of the Shaw’s Plaza entrance, and KWD employees worked on it until about midnight, he said. Customers in Shaw’s Plaza and the area behind it off Cherry Hill Terrace were without water service and some businesses along Kennedy Memorial Drive to the Irving station at the top of the hill also were without service, according to Crouse.

“That was really challenging and impactful to our customers, and disruptive and frustrating for people,” he said.

Kennebec Water District crews work to fix a water main break on Kennedy Memorial Drive last week. Another water main break in the same area Tuesday forced the Kennebec Water District to shut down water again. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

Water District workers installed a shut-off valve at the site of the break which enabled them to maintain water at a lower pressure in the area of Kennedy Memorial Drive, from Northern Light Inland Hospital to Interstate 95, he said. That area usually has higher pressure, he said.

On Tuesday, three days later, another break occurred in the same main, although as far as officials know, the two breaks were not related, according to Crouse, who said the 12-inch main was installed in 1966.

As KWD workers excavated the site Tuesday afternoon and into the evening, they discovered the concrete foundations underground that hold the post for the traffic arms which extend over the entrance to Shaw’s Plaza, he said.

“There was no way to repair it with a mass of concrete right on top of our water main,” Crouse said.


So, officials regrouped Tuesday night and on Wednesday, they returned to the site with the goal of installing another new valve just west of the Shaw’s entrance, which they did, he said. With the two valves in place, there’s no water in the pipe under the concrete foundations and every customer has water service except Camden National Bank on the south side of Kennedy Memorial Drive, he said. The Water District is working with the bank and has supplied it with a portable bathroom. Faith Church adjacent to the bank is allowing employees to use its restrooms, according to Crouse.

It is not clear why the concrete structures were built over the main, but the plaza’s developer would have been the entity required to install them, according to Crouse.

“What happened, what communication failed, what decisions were made that didn’t involve us, we have no idea,” he said. “None of us here were there, then. Who knows? It was a mistake that should never have been acceptable. We’re assuming someone didn’t do it with mal intent, but it was a poorly informed decision.”

Crouse said KWD has no records to show who installed the concrete but DOT did not install it. DOT required the signal control to be installed when the plaza was developed, he said.

Meanwhile, Inland Hospital has had challenges with the lower water pressure and the Water District has had a lot of communication with officials there to make sure they’re able to take care of operational needs, according to Crouse. All of the customers should have regular water pressure returned when the main is rerouted next week, he said.

“This is has been very disruptive to the customers and we’ve been trying to apologize profusely for it because of financial loss …” he said.

Kennebec Water District supplies water from China Lake to about 9,000 residential and commercial customers in Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield, Benton and parts of Vassalboro, through about 172 miles of pipe. The town of Oakland also buys water wholesale from the district. The water district has 28 employees, five of whom work at the treatment plant in Vassalboro.

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