A broken valve sent water and mud under and over the pavement.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Department of Public Works is working to fix a water main break that has closed Harris Street.
The break occurred around 5:30 a.m. just above Hathaway Street and sent mud and water pouring down Harris Street. The water has undermined the northbound side of the street, collapsing a section at the Hathaway junction and affected three manholes below the break.
The deluge left the driveways at the bottom, including the North Adams Ambulance covered in mud.
According to Public Services Superintendent Timothy Lescarbeau, rusted bolts on a valve gave way, causing the valve to pop open. He expected the work to continue at least through Friday.
"We found dates on it from 1992, so it's not that old," he said. "What happened is the bolts rusted through and broke."
According to afternoon updates from the mayor, restoring service in the area of the break is "problematic and complicated." Areas still without service include Harris, Tyler, Palmer, Adams and Dougan streets and River Street from Brown to Tyler.
Affected areas have been alerted by several CodeRed messages during the day but the mayor said all those who have lost water is still unknown.
"If you do have water, water may be lost at times throughout the day in the Harris Street neighborhood as the problem is being addressed," he wrote on his Facebook update. "Please know that crews are doing all possible to restore service and will be on the job until service is restored."
Lescarbeau said there were difficulties in finding the right parts because of the number of types of gates used in the city. Adams and Williamstown DPWs had offered some aid and an appropriate gate was being installed at about 4:30 p.m.
Several hydrants had to be opened to relieve pressure on the system because some gates, or valves, in the surrounding area were broken.
The east side of Harris Street continued to collapse.
The city's aging underground infrastructure has been showing stress over the years, including several high-profile water breaks over the past year. Lescarbeau said another one had occurred a couple weeks ago at the Williamstown line.
The demonstration of a camera scope in what had been considered a pipe in good shape turned up a large hole, he said. "We had to use a camera to find that out."
The city's engineers three years ago developed a $20 million plan to fix the pipes. Mayor Richard Alcombright said Friday's break was an "unfortunate thing" but not really reflective of the problems. Not being able to close the gates was.
"This thing leaked and leaked until it broke," he said. "This doesn't speak to our global infrastructure as much as the inability to turn this thing off ... We're going to have breaks here and there, but that we can't turn the water off to fix the thing is very discouraging."
The damage caused to the roadway became more evident as the day progressed: a hole that appeared in the pavement in the morning grew larger and was joined by two others. Several indentations could be seen lower in the road where the gravel understructure had washed away. The pavement had lifted around three or four manhole covers as well as along the edge of the ambulance's driveway.
Lescarbeau estimated the cost to fix the road at about $50,000. He said once the water was back on, the highway crew would remove the loose pavement and fill in the holes with gravel as a temporary measure over the weekend.
Updated at 8:32 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2013, with quotes and further information.