Update: Portland Avenue Open to Traffic; NJAW to Meet with Town Officials

The break flooded parts of Scotch Plains, and residents close to the break have seen significant water damage.

Update August 4, 6:00 p.m.

While Scotch Plains and Fanwood residents await final paving on Portland Road, the road is now open to vehicular traffic.

New Jersey American Water is still awaiting results from a lab analysis of parts of the ruptured main, said Peter Eschbach, director of communications and external affairs at New Jersey American Water.

The company is scheduled to meet with town officials and the mayor next week to review the event and what strategies should be employed to prevent future breaks, according to a news release from Scotch Plains Mayor Mary DePaola.

"While a main break like this is rare, meetings like this are a fairly common practice for us in an effort to keep municipal leadership informed," Eschbach said.

Customers who experienced low water pressure and were asked earlier in the week to conserve water may now resume normal levels of indoor and outdoor water use.

Update August 2, 10:00 a.m.

Repair of the pipe was completed late last night.  

Crews continued to work through the night to backfill the hole.

Road restoration and cleanup will continue today.

New Jersey American Water filled and flushed the pipe and are taking water samples for lab testing this morning.

Update August 1, 11:00 p.m.

Crews continue to make progress on the repairs despite inclement weather said Peter Eschbach, director of communications and external affairs at New Jersey American Water.

He said, however, the rain has slowed down progress a little.

Still, Eschbach expects the new pipe to be put in tonight, and NJAW can then fill the pipe with water.

He said the company will run lab tests on the water to ensure water quality before the main is fully operational. That should not get in the way of the physical restoration effort, however.

There is no word yet on when Portland Avenue will reopen.

Update August 1, 3:00 p.m.

Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr issued a statement this afternoon updating the community on effects of yesterday's water main break.

“I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Fanwood Police Department and the Fanwood Department of Public Works for their quick response to this incident Tuesday and their continued work at the site through the night into today,” said Mahr in a release this afternoon.

“I would like to thank all our residents for their patience in dealing with reduced water pressure and the all-around inconvenience caused by this incident,” she continued.

Mahr said area water pressure is now at a near normal level.

She reported six leaks in Fanwood, five of which have been repaired this morning.

The town is working on a filling and flushing sampling plan.

The cleaning service is scheduled to return to the site today to complete any left over water and mud cleanup.

“Thanks again to everyone in Fanwood for pulling together,” Mahr concluded.

Update August 1, 2:00 p.m.

This morning, a new work crew replaced yesterday's crew. They began installing repair materials, said Peter Eschbach, director of communications and external affairs at New Jersey American Water.

Crews are currently awaiting the arrival of gaskets and adapters necessary to connect ductile iron pipe to cement pipe. Eschbach expects these parts to be onsite within the next few hours.

As of 5:00 am, the water system in the area is in good shape, he said.

Work at the rupture site was delayed by a thunderstorm early this morning, but crews were soon able to remove the broken 18-foot length of the 48 inch water main.  

NJAW performed an internal inspection of about 200 feet of remaining pipe by crawling inside. They found no issues, so no other lengths of pipe need to be removed, Eschbach said.

Samples from the ruptured pipe have been collected and sent to a lab for analysis to determine the cause of the failure. No results have been reported yet.

Eschbach estimates reconstruction to be completed this evening.

Scotch Plains Mayor Mary DePaola, who visited with residents yesterday, said she sympathizes with those who saw damage to their homes yesterday.

“Things like this that just come out of the blue are very difficult for people to handle,” she said.

“You know, I’m not an attorney, but it seems to me that there has to be some help from New Jersey American Water as far as taking care of a problem like that. It can’t just be strictly the person’s homeowner policy.”

She said the mayor’s office will do all it can to assist the residents in mitigating the issue, from providing documentation to writing  a letter on the residents’ behalf.

DePaola said Scotch Plains employs a risk manager to assess township issues like yesterday’s water main break. The risk manager, Rich Duthie, and DePaola agreed that NJAW needs to be proactive in regards to caring for infrastructure, she said.

“There is a lot of cost incurred by letting something like this happen,” she said.

“We’ve got to reevaluate our old infrastructure, look at how we can start doing things to prevent things like this from happening in the future, and that means starting today,” DePaola continued. “This is a wake-up call.”

“Let’s just do it right the first time moving forward,” she said.

DePaola commended the emergency crews, including the fire department and police department, who were on the scene early yesterday morning. She said their response time was very good and they handled the situation professionally.

“I have only the highest praise for everybody in Scotch Plains of course, but also in Fanwood,” she said.

Update July 31, 4:00 p.m.

New Jersey American Water has completed pumping out water from the 15-foot wide hole created by the water main break. Water levels have receded for the most part and roads are now covered in remnants of mud and garbage left behind by the gushing waters.

Crews are now working in the hole to unearth the water main. The cause of the break is still unknown, but Eshbach estimates work to be completed in 48 hours.

Since the water main break involved a distribution main and not a service main, NJAW was able to restore water pressure quickly, and the health safety of the water was not compromised, said Scotch Plains Fire Department Chief Jonathan Ellis.

Traffic will continue to be detoured for an extended period of time to allow for the repair of the main and reconstruction of the roadway, he said.

Update July 31, 11:00 a.m.

Patch.com spoke to Peter Eschbach, director of communications and external affairs at New Jersey American Water, who is on site at the water main break.

Eschbach confirmed a 48 in. concrete transmission pipe running down Portland Avenue ruptured around 3:30 a.m. this morning. The pipe was installed in the 1970s, he said.

He said houses are not directly connected to the pipe, but rather it provided water to other smaller pipes that connect to residents’ homes.

NJAW turned off water to the pipe this morning to isolate the break. They are currently in the process of pumping out the hole caused by the break with multiple pumps so workers can investigate the cause of the rupture and work to fix it.

This process could take around 24 hours to complete, Eshbach said, but it is difficult at this time to estimate exactly.

“We’re talking hours though,” he said.

Eschbach said no residents, as far as he knows, are without water in Scotch Plains. He said, however, residents may experience low pressure for the time being, since NJAW have rerouted water to homes.

NJAW contractors are currently on the scene pumping water from flooded homes and St. Bartholomew Academy. Eschbach said they are working with Scotch Plains police to prevent fraudulent contractors from entering residents’ homes.

“The good news is we’re not on a main community artery, and the other good news is it’s not 95 degrees and 100 percent humidity,” he said.


An early morning water main break on Portland and Birch left many Scotch Plains residents without water this morning.

One resident spoke with New Jersey American Water shortly after 5 a.m. Representatives of NJAW at that time said that repairs would be completed by 4 p.m.

After 7:30 a.m., the Fire Department was reporting that the water was "secured" and that they were successfully pumping water from basements. The Fire Dept. was requesting that the gas company evaluate gas lines at that time.

Other residents said that helicopters were circling after 7 a.m. Images of the surging waters from the break are showing up on New York television news outlets like NBC.

Patch will be updating this story.

Do you have images or video of the water main break? Upload it here.

Anna July 31, 2012 at 01:37 PM
The water pressure in my shower this morning was non-existent. I immediately checked our Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/SPFNJ/) and found all the information there! That was 5 AM this morning! Talk about breaking news! :)
Big wave July 31, 2012 at 02:06 PM
The graphic accompanying the article really gives a sense of the enormity of the situation.
wascawy wabit July 31, 2012 at 02:25 PM
when i opened my eyes, in my thoughts i was yelling...."nooooooooooo". It was one of those days when i was awoken from a great dream... and couldn't get back to it. the sound of helicopters hovering above St. Barts area did not help at all. Nevertheless i re-positioned myself just the way i assumed was my sleeping position (head hanging over the bed faced down). I never got back to first dream but I however walked into a new adventure right smack into the middle of an alien world invasion where if i stayed in the streets to fight, my death was imminent. now that I'm awake...hope that everyone is fine and water back to normal. Good tuesday scotch plains...
Terry July 31, 2012 at 02:33 PM
This was breaking news at 7am - which NJ.com had and you did not. You sent email out about the Mayor. Meanwhile people are looking for information on the local emergencies. This is not a good local resource for news when breaking news that could be life threatening.
James H July 31, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I second this comment... There was absolutely nothing about this water main break on any of the news sites until after 7am, but the Scotch Plains Facebook group had a whole conversation with pictures and USEFUL information for residents -- long before the news picked up on it... Heres the link again in case this gets separated from Anna's initial message https://www.facebook.com/groups/SPFNJ/
Mary Mann (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Sorry, Terry! We're between full-time editors for SPF right now and doing our best! Soon, SPF Patch will have a higher level of coverage again. Meanwhile, we will keep post any updates on this situation that we get from NJAW, the PD and/or the FD. Thanks to all for the emails.
Scotch plains resident July 31, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I got an email at 6:26am from UC first alert.
Mike Smith July 31, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Where was DePaola? The only one my wife saw there was councilman Glover. I guess if she has water, what does she care?
Barney Oldfield July 31, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I think if I were Mayor or a candidate for Mayor I would show up at a disaster site to show my concern for residents and constituents. If I had any concern, that is.
Dianne July 31, 2012 at 04:18 PM
The amount of water surging down the roads was unbelievable. I hope the families in the homes that were evacuated aren't displaced too long.
Northside Sara July 31, 2012 at 05:22 PM
It's a problem if it's on the north side. The mayor would consider it a tragedy if it were on the south side.
faith July 31, 2012 at 06:58 PM
thank u barney. i agree. thank u mr glover.
Tired July 31, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Yes I know when I have problem with my utility, the first thing I want to see before the utility workers themselves show up (to do actual work on the problem) is a politician. Give me a break.
Mike Smith July 31, 2012 at 09:21 PM
I guess you are "tired" of helping out your community. Maybe you should move. I for one plan to support my local neighbors, and any politician who is there to lend a helping hand.
Derek July 31, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Something happened at lunchtime today with the rerouting of water. It seemed to surge down Paterson Road and my neighbors kerb box broke causing water to flood into my basement. :-(
Reg Dunlop July 31, 2012 at 11:25 PM
I have to agree with Terry. I wouldn't have been aware of what was going on had I not received a text from a co-worker who heard it on the NY Radio stations. This Breaking News didn't come out on the Patch until more than 2 hours later. This certainly was more "breaking news" than 5th graders being turned away from their Liberty Island ferry.
Larraine Lourenco August 01, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Just called American Water...there was a related water main break this afternoon on Russel Road in Fanwood which is being worked on...I had water earlier in the day but now there is no water at all on Madison Ave...American Water said water should be restored around 1am...
PlainlySee August 01, 2012 at 01:14 AM
I feel sorry for those who had flooded basements. The water damage can be so devastating. Speaking of which, Scotch Plains is one of the only towns that does nothing to mitigate flooding in Union County. Try driving down Lamberts Mill, West Broad, Cooper, or Raritan during a heavy rain. Northside may lose power and have water main breaks, but South Side has little creeks that wreak havoc.
cnewman August 01, 2012 at 04:15 AM
What is the word from the mayor? What can be done to make sure this doesn't happen again?
maureen August 01, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Could it be that the mayor is on vacation?? -- its is summer and she is entitled to take a vacation with her family. That being said, I would hope she is aware of the situation and will comment asap.
Pointy hat August 01, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Who is the deputy mayor now? Is it Glover? He was there so maybe he was representing the mayor. I know, that even made me laugh.
maureen August 01, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Good question -- if there is a deputy mayor now. Does anyone know?
neveragain August 01, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Don't forget, as the Mayor repeatedly reminds us, she is an ENGINEER! So, she's probably conferring as we speak with NJAW officials about all the finer engineering points of the situation.
maureen August 01, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Very funny neveragain!!!
Barney Oldfield August 01, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Yo! Patch. Its De Paola with an "a".
cnewman August 02, 2012 at 02:00 PM
hey are you making fun of me? I pay big taxes here for my very little house - i don't think i am spoiled but do like hot water & to be able to flush...i still would like to know who is in charge and what is the offical response??(was away so maybe i missed something?? and when i am away from my job someone is left in charge and everyone knows who is " IT " in my absence!
Enough Already August 04, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Hey, anyone else experiencing low water pressure tonight? We're in Scotch Plains near Rossi's.


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