50 Westminster households left dry by a water main break

June 24, 1994|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,Sun Staff Writer

Westminster residents Gloria and Stanley Beaver were planning to celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary last night. But first, Mrs. Beaver had to wait for water to start running from her faucet.

"We don't have a drop," Mrs. Beaver said yesterday afternoon as she waited for Mr. Beaver to return from a painting job. "We were hoping to get bathed before we went out. But if we can't bathe, I'm not going anywhere."

The Beaver home was one of about 50 Westminster households -- including that of city Public Works Director Thomas B. Beyard -- left dry after a water main broke along Route 27 early yesterday morning.

Mr. Beyard said service would be restored to homes on Hahn Road by last night, meaning the Beavers might have been able to keep their anniversary plans. And water pressure, which was low all around Westminster yesterday, should return to normal levels by this morning, he said.

"It's still coming out," Charles West, caretaker of the Westminster Armory, said of the water pressure yesterday, "but not with a lot of force like usually."

In comparison to some businesses, Mr. West's was lucky.

The Hahn's meat-packing plant and the Random House publishing distribution center along Hahn Road both endured a day without water.

William E. Gavin, director of administration at the Random House center, said the company was forced to bring in bottled water and 16 portable toilets to serve 600 workers there. In addition, employee lunch breaks were extended by a half-hour, allowing some workers to get home for a drink.

The main broke about 5:15 a.m. and was shut off within an hour, said John Collington, a public works employee who was on the scene.

But an estimated 200,000 gallons of water -- about 10 percent of the city's reserves -- escaped the main into a nearby stream before the break was contained, according to Paula K. Martin, superintendent of Westminster's Cranberry Water Plant.

"I'm guessing that we lost at least 200,000 gallons out of storage," Ms. Martin said. "But it might be worse."

During the day, Westminster officials asked all city residents to refrain from using water outdoors. They also urged citizens to delay unnecessary indoor projects requiring water, such as washing clothes.

Mr. Beyard said yesterday's crisis was temporary and that Westminster -- unlike Hampstead, Manchester and Taneytown -- is not facing a water shortage.

Crews from the city's Department of Public Works spent much of the day digging a 15-foot hole so they could replace a section of the main. One lane of Route 27 next to the digging area was closed until after 4 p.m.

The break consisted of a razor-thin, 10-foot-long split in a cast-iron pipe. Officials said the split was the natural result of decades of use.

"Pipes are in use all day, every day," said Ms. Martin, whose Cranberry plant produces 90 percent of Westminster's water. "It's not like your car's brakes, where you can take them in and get them checked."

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