UPDATE: Crews repairing water main break on Western Avenue; traffic being detoured through Saturday | News

A break in a 20-inch water main just before 10 am on Friday between Bond Street and Old Salem Road on Western Avenue, Route 127, dropped water pressure throughout the city and flooded a more than 100-foot stretch of the roadway and sidewalk.

It also created a sinkhole that could swallow a car between Windsor Lane and Stage Fort Avenue and heaved the pavement where the break occurred.

Public Works Director Mike Hale said around 3 pm Friday that crews had excavated down to the broken pipe. He estimated water would be restored late in the afternoon to the isolated area that lost water for several hours.

Public Works said customers on the following streets would have no water until the repair was complete: Western Avenue from Essex Avenue to Old Salem Road, Stage Fort Avenue, Hough Avenue, Anchor Lane, Windsor Lane, Crowell Avenue, and Beachmont Avenue.

Hale said the roadway would not be fully repaired on Friday due to the extensive amount of work required. City inbound traffic on Western Avenue was being diverted around the water main break onto Hough Avenue, which runs by Stage Fort Park; outbound traffic is not affected.

At 4 pm, the city said traffic in both directions will be detoured Saturday starting at 7 am so that the buckled pavement can be repaired.

William Gilliss, the city’s utilities superintendent who was on scene with Mayor Greg Verga around 12:30 pm, estimated the break spilled 800,000 gallons.

The break was contained about 45 minutes after it was reported, with Public Works asking customers to be patient as water pressure returned.

The force of the water from the broken main buckled the pavement on a portion of Western Avenue, filling the roadway with sand and gravel, and caused the sinkhole.

Gilliss said Rose LoPiccolo, a Public Works secretary, called him at 9:52 am after hearing about the water main break on the scanner.

Verga said it helped that people could alert the city quickly as to what was happening.

“Our phones started blowing up in the office, then we got the text from Mike (Hale) saying there was a significant water main break,” the mayor said.

“We were getting calls from East Gloucester that there was no water, or no water pressure,” Verga added. “City Hall had no water. Like I said, it all happened pretty fast.”

“In the daytime people can see what’s going on,” Verga said. “People in bed wouldn’t have necessarily been running their sinks to see there was no water pressure.”

Gilliss said Public Works crews had the break under control by 10:36 am

When asked what might have happened, Gilliss said: “It’s old” about the section of pipe.

“Over 100 years,” Verga said of the cast iron water main. Verga said it was better the break happened on a summer day instead of in the middle of December.

Gilliss said if the break had happened at night, the water would have run for another hour as he mobilized the response.

“It would have been much worse,” Gilliss said.

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