Broken, cracked water mains cause problems in three cities

Posted at: 03/11/2014 12:00 AM
Updated at: 03/11/2014 12:10 AM
By: Steve Flamisch

Cracked or broken water mains disrupted service and forced road closures in three Capital Region cities over the last 48 hours.

Officials in Albany and Troy said aging infrastructure and changing weather were likely to blame, while authorities in Watervliet attributed their problem to a faulty pipe.

The first break happened under Fifteen St. in Troy, near the intersection with Hoosick St. Workers replaced six feet of pipe on Saturday, only to be called back Sunday to replace six additional feet.

"When you get thawing and freezing, the ground moves a little it," said Chris Wheland, the city’s public utilities superintendent. "The pipes move a little bit. When the pipes move, they break."

Age is another probable factor, Wheland said. The city installed that main in 1897. In fact, Troy’s old, wooden trolley tracks were visible in the work hole.

"It's just an old city," he said. "It's not different than Schenectady, than Albany. [The] infrastructure is old."

Wheland said he would love to replace the city’s century-old mains, but he said there is no money in the budget for that. It is cheaper to replace smaller sections as they break, he said.

In Albany, a leaking fire hydrant branch under First St., near Lark St., caused a sinkhole Monday that partially swallowed a garbage truck. No one was injured.

Age and ground thaw may have caused the leak, according to Michael Ruede, who oversees the city’s water and sewer departments. Albany installed that main in 1895.

And in Watervliet, the city dispatched workers on Monday to fix a cracked water main under Watervliet-Shaker Rd., near the intersection with Mahogany Rd.

That main was newer – it was installed in 1942 – but it was "faulty," according to Mark Gleason, the city’s general manager.

The water main repairs in Troy and Albany were completed by Sunday and Monday, respectively. The work in Watervliet was expected to wrap up overnight Monday into Tuesday.