A serious water main break on Wednesday in Middletown forced the closure of schools and affected the city's hospital and businesses.
The break happened off of Silver Mine Road near the Rushford Center and Connecticut Valley Hospital, according to Mayor Dan Drew.
"We are asking people to avoid using the tap whenever possible to give us time to replenish pressure and flush pipes," Drew said. "That said, if water is clear, it can be used safely."
Later on Wednesday afternoon, water was finally running clear, but the break caused headaches for many throughout the city on Wednesday.
In addition to the city's public schools, Vinal Technical High School and Middlesex Community College were also closed for the day, according to school officials.
Schools will be open on Thursday.
Middlesex Hospital canceled all surgeries, except emergencies, for the remainder of the day. Its emergency department was "on diversion," which means ambulances are headed to other area hospitals. Around noon, the emergency department was "no longer on diversion," hospital officials said
"We are coordinating additional potable water tanker deliveries for hospital patients," Drew said.
CT Water sent two 6,000 gallon certified potable water tankers and another 2,000 gallon certified potable water tanker to Middlesex Hospital on Wednesday afternoon. The water in the tankers will be used for the kitchen and food preparation area through "temporary sanitary hose and to water station outside the hospital."
“We recognize water is such an essential service and critical for public health and safety in the community. No more evident than in a hospital so we were pleased to be able to respond and assist our colleagues at Middlesex to allow them to continue to provide services and meet the needs of their patients and their families," CWC’s VP of Customer & Regulatory Affairs Maureen P. Westbrook said in a statement on Wednesday.
The portable tankers will remain on the grounds of Middlesex Hospital until they are no longer needed.
The Middlesex YMCA also reported being affected by the break. Officials said YMCA opened at 1 p.m. and its pool was available at 1:30 p.m.
According to Drew, the break occurred on a main feeder line and affected water pressure in large portions of the city.
"The consequence of this is that water was draining quickly out of our reserve tanks and the treatment plant could not keep up supplying the necessary water for the rest of the community," Drew said. "When this happens, pressure drops and supply is cut off to some places. It also got air into the pipe and resulted in reverse flows in the pipe. That leads to discolored and/or cloudy water."
Crews isolated the leak and shut the feeder line down. The system was coming back to normal with water levels and pressure building up on Wednesday afternoon.
"Think of it like a bleeding artery," Drew said. "Once it's clamped, the rest of the body will get more blood. They can then repair the broken main."
Those in areas of high elevation or nearby have a higher likelihood of being affected, according to Drew.
Disruptions were expected throughout the day for most of the city. Officials said unless homeowners are on a well, they would be impacted.
"We have begun flushing the water lines throughout the city, beginning in critical areas like near Middlesex Hospital, to clear the lines of debris," Drew said. "This debris and turbidity is normal and non-toxic, but as a precautionary measure we advise you not to use cloudy water. If you must use it, boil it first. Get some bottled water for your use [Wednesday]."
Officials also opened the city's Emergency Operations Center.
"We expect pressure to return to normal approximately in the early afternoon," Drew said. "We’ll be flushing areas of pipe throughout the next several days. We must do this slowly to avoid rapid pressure changes and further bursts of pipe."
The state Department of Public Health will be collecting water samples in conjunction with Middletown's water and health departments to ensure water quality, Drew said.
Drew also said mutual aid tankers trucks have been stationed at each of the city's three fire departments as a backup precaution in the event of a structure fire.
Several southeastern Connecticut towns sent tankers trucks and hose tenders to help in that event.
Drew said most of the Westfield section of town has been unaffected because it is being fed of of an already-treated tank.
There's no word yet on what caused the break. The pipe that burst was installed in 1965.
Stay with Eyewitness News for more information as soon as it comes into our newsroom.
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