The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 9, 2012

Crews restore water service in New Berlin

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

NEW BERLIN — NEW BERLIN - Water service was restored Tuesday afternoon for borough residents, ending a dry spell of more than 24 hours that occurred after a pressure-reducing valve failed.

The valve failure caused the flow of water to overwhelm the municipal system and caused numerous leaks in pipes throughout the borough.

A boil-water advisory is still in effect, said Kurt Zimmerman, New Berlin Municipal Authority chairman.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is conducting water quality tests and indicated it will use a rapid-response phone system, a type of automatic phone call, to notify residents when the boil-water order is lifted, Zimmerman said.

It’s OK for residents to bathe and wash clothes in unboiled water, he said.

New Berlin is on a hillside, and two main water lines lead into New Berlin along Vine and Plum streets from reservoirs at the top of the hill, Zimmerman said.

Halfway down each main is a pressure-reducing valve that equalizes the water pressure. The valve on the Plum Street line failed, Zimmerman said, letting water come down at high pressure. Contractors also believe that valve kept releasing and closing, sending water into the lower end of town.

The nine leaks that occurred mainly were in the Market and Vine street areas, he said.

Union County Commissioner John Showers, a New Berlin resident, offered all available county services to the borough, said President Juli Finkbiner. Water stations were set up in several places for residents to fill containers for home use.

“We’re slowly turning it back on. We hope there are no other leaks,” said Mark Eisley, a supervisor and foreman with Gutelius Excavating Inc., of Mifflinburg, as he and coworkers tended to a water valve at Market and Vine streets, the borough’s main intersection, just after noon Tuesday.

Gutelius crews worked through the night and into Tuesday morning at various spots in New Berlin, digging trenches 9 feet long and nearly 4 feet deep to reach the problem pipes.

Water sprung up

One crew on New Berlin Mountain Road showed where two 11-inch diameter water pipes had been sealed, one of nine leaks that sprung up in the borough and which some residents said turned streets into fast-moving creeks.

“It was like a river coming down the street yesterday” from where a leak had popped up, said Matthew Swanger, who lives on High Street in a household of seven, three of them children. Despite the full house, Swanger said the water outage was a minor inconvenience.

“It’s been coming off and on this morning,” he said, “and the pressure has been really low, but it was working.”

Robert Taylor, who also lives on High Street, said the water in his house went off about noon Monday. He was pleased with the diligent response, which he observed from his home.

New Berlin’s water system is 60 to 70 years old, Zimmerman said. “The pipes aren’t brand-new, but usually our situations aren’t because of broken pipes,” he said. “It’s usually high pressure or a hydrant turned off too quickly, those create the problems more.”

The municipal authority doesn’t have any estimates yet for what this incident and its response will cost, he said.