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Pipe Break Causes Campus Water Outage

By Jenny Zhang


All of Cambridge City, including the entire MIT campus, experienced either a water shortage or a water outage yesterday. A major water main broke in Kendall Square at Broadway and 3rd Street, according to the Cambridge City Web site. Water was restored to the MIT campus, except for Tang Hall graduate dormitory, by 10:35 p.m. last night, according to MIT’s 3-DOWN Services Status update Web page.

The broken 30 inch water pipe, the largest type used in Cambridge, goes “all the way from Harvard Square,” so the entire city was affected by either no water or low water pressure, said Cassandra A. Koutalidis, manager of engineering and program development for the City of Cambridge.

“Provisions have been made for Porta-Potties and supplemental water” for Tang Hall, wrote Bernard J. Richard, MIT manager of mechanical, electrical and plumbing operations, in an e-mail.

“Hopefully the pipe will be fixed by noontime” Friday, said Joseph Bourdeau, Cambridge water treatment plant operator. The Cambridge Water Department is working on reducing the radius of the area affected by the broken pipe, he said. Although the pipe had not been repaired as of yesterday evening, much of the city, including MIT, had water restored because it was being rerouted from elsewhere, he said. Bourdeau said he was uncertain what had caused the broken pipe.

Lab water, sprinklers were off

Richard said MIT Facilities first learned of the problem from reports of low water pressure on campus.

The fire sprinklers were nonfunctional, and laboratories did not have running water, he said.

The water purifying RODI, or Reverse Osmotic Deionizing, system, which provides water for laboratory animals, was also turned off.

MIT Facilities is “working on stabilizing our own system and checking buildings,” Richard said. Despite lack of water supply for several hours, residual water left in the pipes was useable. There was the matter of “how many flushes” it would supply, though, he said.

Richards said domestic boosters, which are pumps that raise water pressure in some places, were turned off. These were restored yesterday evening.

Cambridge fixing pipe

Koutalidis said the Cambridge Water Department learned of the break at 3:30 p.m. yesterday.

Cambridge uses the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority backup system to reroute water from elsewhere, so water the water supply to most of Cambridge was restored several hours after the breakage. This rerouting can run indefinitely, she said.

It is more difficult to fix the water supply problem within two or three blocks of the broken pipe, she said.