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Water main break snarls Route 31 traffic in Mt. Pleasant Township

Kelly Vernon | Trib Total Media
Crews from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County work to repair a ruptured water main along state Route 31 in Mt. Pleasant Township recently. Photo taken on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013

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Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Kari Lavallee groaned when she turned on the faucet of her kitchen sink Thursday morning and no water came out.

“It just kind of rumbled,” said Lavallee, 24, who lives in an apartment complex along State Route 31 East in Mt. Pleasant Township.

“That meant no coffee, which was unfortunate,” she said.

Lavallee soon discovered a water main break across the road from the complex was the culprit of the depleted water supply.

The break occurred at 7:56 a.m., according to a Westmoreland 911 dispatcher.

“It's a 12-inch line which ruptured there for no specific reason,” said Tom Ceraso, assistant manager of the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.

The flooding which resulted sent muddy water spewing across the heavily traveled thoroughfare, locking up traffic for more than an hour as authority crews responded to the scene shortly after it was reported, Ceraso said.

“Lines that are 12 inches and up are transmission mains for a larger customer base,” Ceraso said.

Water streamed across the road in a steady, roughly six-inch flow that continued through 9 a.m. as county crews employed a bulldozer to dig out a ditch surrounding the ruptured pipe.

It is not the first time such a problem has happened at the site, according to township resident Myrtle Paulman of nearby 200 Mellingertown Road.

“This is the third time this has happened in two years,” said Paulman, whose daughter, Jewel A. Harry, operates the Allstate Insurance Company branch located near the site of the main break.

Ceraso confirmed that mains previously ruptured at that site in December 2011 and May 2010, according to the authority's Route 31 main leak inventory.

While cold weather may have caused the line to rupture in the month of December, Ceraso said, weak spots in the walls created by old age, or even momentary overuse, can often be the culprit in warmer months like May and September.

“The only thing that typically will happen with our bigger lines like this is you'll get pressure fluctuations in system, often in the morning, when the line is absorbing an increase and decrease in pressure due to customer usage, but there's nothing to really pinpoint that's what happened today,”

At 7 a.m., Paulman said she walked up to the Allstate parking lot along Route 31 to fetch and empty two plastic garbage barrels with her trash. In less than an hour, she began walking back up to the lot to return the barrels and found the business's parking lot flooded.

The water receded, however, and the business was open as usual as there was no flooding inside.

“We're definitely open for business,” said Christie Ulery, the agency's manager.

Paulman said an ambulance sent to the scene by Mt. Pleasant Medic 10 prevented motorists jammed in traffic from speeding through where crewmen were performing repair work.

“It was a Godsend,” she said.

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or

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