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Water Supply Stops Briefly Due to Main Water Pipe Rupture

By JiHye Kim

A water main ruptured on the corner of Main and Ames St., flooding the intersection and interrupting water flow to 21 MIT buildings last Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. Water flow to most buildings was restored by early afternoon; a city crew had repaired the break by 7 a.m. Thursday morning.

MIT’s Department of Facilities could not specify the reason for the main pipe burst; the municipal water infrastructure falls under the jurisdiction of the City of Cambridge. City officials were not available for comment.

According to David J. McCormick, director of operations in the Department of Facilities, there was initially flooding from the pipe break. “Facilities had water flowing into the basement of Building E19 where we mobilized to minimize the damage to MIT’s property in this building,” McCormick said.

The Department of Facilities began notifying MIT building occupants as the City of Cambridge began to shut valves down in the street in an attempt to prevent water flow from the broken pipe. Buildings E1, E15, E17, E18, E19, E40, E52, E53, 16, 18, 32, 44, 46, 48, 56, 57, 66, and 68, which house laboratories and offices, were affected, as well as undergraduate dormitories Senior House (E2) and both parallels of East Campus (62 and 64), according to Director of Housing Dennis Collins.

MIT will have to pay for property damage from the flooding, according to McCormick; cost estimates were not yet available.

The Department of Facilities and the City provided alternate water sources for those buildings whose outages lasted more than a few hours. “The Department of Facilities immediately dispatched plumbers to back feed water to all buildings affected,” Collins said. “They ran a large hose from a fire hydrant for Senior House around mid-afternoon. They also brought in a line for East Campus by 4 p.m.”

However, water pressure in East Campus dropped significantly when the City of Cambridge shut the water off to proceed with repairs after establishing access to the broken main at 7 p.m. “EC has flushometers on their toilets,” Collins said. “When the pressure is low, they cannot fill with water. This was a problem all night.”

In the two affected dormitories, the aerators on the faucets that catch small debris in the water were cleaned out. No further repairs were needed, according to Collins.

“MIT mechanics investigated all of the impacted buildings to insure that all pumps and other components were working correctly,” McCormick said.