Four months after Aquarion officials told residents of Triphammer Road that their water service frustrations would go unanswered for another year, the water company is getting set to install some upgrades.
Residents say they have been plagued with problems from a faulty pipe on Union Street for months, losing water six times in 2011 and once in 2010 when spots in the 70-year old pipe burst. That led to shutting off water to several houses on Triphammer Road, which is a dead end to the problematic pipe.
More than two dozen Hingham residents came to complain to selectmen in December 2011 about the issue, asking for a fix to the problem.
Yet Harry Hibbard, vice president of Aquarion Operations in Massachusetts, said that replacing the mile-length of the pipe, approximately a $1 million project, would not fit into Aquarion’s capital budget until 2013.
The service problems, coupled with a pending rate increase, prompted the town to initiate a Town Meeting warrant article to look into purchasing Hingham's water system from the company.
Late last month, Aquarion decided that although it won't replace the faulty pipe just yet, it would install a 900-foot-long, eight-inch pipe nearby on Union Street to loop the system, creating two entrances for water to neighborhoods.
An additional 20 feet of pipe will be installed on Thistle Patch Way to connect that neighborhood to the pipe as well.
So if the Union Street pipe breaks again, water would not be shut off to surrounding neighborhoods.
“This will allow for continued service to these neighborhoods if there are any problems in the Wampatuck State Park. It will loop the water line, connect it from both ends, so now they will have free-flowing water, better pressure, but the intent is to keep up service,” said Harry Sylvester, assistant project engineer for the town of Hingham.
Sylvester expects the company to do some preliminary work to protect nearby conservation land and to bore some test holes next week. Trenching will begin the week of April 30, and most likely would be complete within two weeks.
The road will have one lane open to traffic, with a detail directing people nearby.
According to Sylvester, residents are sure to be relived.
“They have been without water for many hours when there is a water break,” Sylvester said. “[Aquarion] is still investigating the reasons why that line keeps breaking. They don’t have any solutions to that problem, but when it does [break] there are 30 neighbors who are out of water for a period of time. This will eliminate their concerns.”
When selectmen last week approved the Grant of Location request for Aquarion to do the work, several residents expressed their gratitude, Selectman Bruce Rabuffo said.
“Brian McSweeney was one of the neighbors. He used to be the Hingham militia sergeant major…he’s a longstanding and very popular member of the community and he was grateful they came around to fixing his problem,” Rabuffo said.
Rabuffo doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that Aquarion chose to respond to the problem shortly after the town took steps to purchase its infrastructure.
“They have said they recognize they have a service issue. They are responding to the warrant article, I think, but also that they want to take care of their customers,” Rabuffo said.
According to Hibbard, it was a matter of priorities.
“We understand it’s a serious problem and we have sought and received additional investment in fixing that situation this year,” he said during an interview in late March. “We will be beginning that project in the spring as soon as we have the town’s approval.”
In addition to the Union Street fixes, Hibbard also said the company would look into similar problems on Free Street, which also has been hard hit by water main breaks, Rabuffo said.