Cold weather contributing to water main breaks | News

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Cold weather contributing to water main breaks
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WESTBROOK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Crews spent much of Monday repairing a water main break on Stroudwater Street in Westbrook.

That's just one of many the Portland Water District and other public works departments across the state have had to repair this winter.

"We've had an awful lot of cold weather this past month," said Dave Jones, Lewiston director of Public Works.

February marked the coldest month in history for many Maine communities, and the large number of water main breaks is evidence of that.

"We've got four and a half to five feet of frost in the ground right now," Jones said.

Cold temperatures drive that frost even deeper, pushing down the soil and putting pressure on water mains. A break in Lewiston shut down part of Ferry Road for several hours Monday. Public works officials said the frost played a part, even though it was warmer.

"You'd think on a warm day it would start letting up and stuff, but it doesn't," Jones said. "It actually forces it to go down even deeper."

Lewiston is not the only city seeing problems. The unusually cold weather was a big contributor to many of the 21 water main breaks the Portland Water District had to repair last month. That is the most breaks in a February since 2004.

"When our folks are digging down through four feet of frost, they've been doing this for a long time, and February has been extremely cold, and so it's a likely cause," Portland Water District spokesperson Michelle Clements said.

One of the other problems boils down to budgets. Jones admits Lewiston's system is old, and he would like to do more upkeep.

"But I mean it all takes resources, and that means money," he said. "We've got a plan for capital improvements, and we're doing pipe replacements as we can within the resources that we have."

Meanwhile, the Portland Water District has been trying to invest more in break prevention. Officials said they've increased their yearly allotment for replacing water mains by $4 million in the past four years.

The Portland Water District would like to have $7 million for its water main repair program in 2016, and the same amount each year after that.


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