Crews work to restore water service after North Huntingdon line break, landslide

Workers from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County repair a 30-inch water line main on March 26, 2014 along Route 993 in North Huntingdon Township. The road remains closed, and water service was interrupted.
Workers from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County repair a 30-inch water line main on March 26, 2014 along Route 993 in North Huntingdon Township. The road remains closed, and water service was interrupted.
Photo by Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 12:09 p.m.

Chris Hofmeister of Trafford stocked up on bottled water for drinking and washing his hands because water service was cut to his Wallace Avenue home on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, he was one of about 4,000 customers in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties still waiting for water service to be restored after a break in a 30-inch water line along Route 993 in North Huntingdon.

“We're definitely going to keep water in the basement because this could happen again,” said his son, Lou Hofmeister.

The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County had another setback at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when the waterline cracked for a third time, said Chris Kerr, authority manager. Water service might not be restored until Thursday morning, said Gina Cerilli, authority spokeswoman.

Crews repaired the first crack in the line near the Cleaveland/Price Inc. plant in North Huntingdon, but a second break was discovered when the line was pressurized with water, Kerr said.

On Wednesday, the line cracked in another section as water pressure was being restored, Kerr said, requiring a third repair.

Part of a hillside fell onto the highway over the transmission line on Tuesday afternoon when Kesco Inc. of Butler set off an explosive charge above Route 993, Kerr said. The authority is not certain how far the crack in the line has spread from the initial break.

The eastbound lane of Route 993, where crews were repairing the water line near the Cleaveland/Price electrical switch plant, remained closed on Wednesday.

Once water service is restored, customers in the affected areas are advised to boil their drinking water for 48 hours until tests are completed because of the potential for contamination through back-flow, back-pressure or back-siphonage.

Kerr said the service disruption is so widespread because the transmission line serves the communities of Cavittsville in North Huntingdon, Ross Street Extension in Wall, North Versailles and the South Trafford, Wallace Avenue and Brownstone Court areas of Trafford.

The authority's customers in Allegheny County lost their water supply on Wednesday morning because water tanks supplying the system were depleted, Cerilli said.

The authority said it hopes to keep customers in Wall Borough in service through a supplemental line from the Wilkinsburg Penn Joint Water Authority, which fluoridates its water.

Department of Environmental Protection inspectors who inspected the scene said the water-line break was caused when the hillside slid onto an exposed section of the pipe after the explosive blast, said spokesman John Poister. Kesco, an explosives contractor, had a permit from the agency to conduct the blasting for an expansion of the Cleaveland/Price plant.

Daniel Conn, president of Kesco, was not available for comment, a company employee said.

The state hasn't completed its investigation into Kesco's operations at the site, Poister said. The agency will determine whether Kesco abided by the permit guidelines, including the location of the explosive blast and the type of explosive used.

Water buffaloes and bottled water were available to customers on Tuesday night near the Route 993 and Fundistown Road intersection, at Wallace Trailer Court in Level Green and at the ballfield in South Trafford on Wallace Avenue. The water buffalo in South Trafford was either empty on Wednesday afternoon, or its contents were frozen.

Other water buffaloes were set up in North Versailles at the Wall Avenue-Penn Avenue intersection, the North Versailles police station and the intersection of Route 30 and Edwards Street.

Though the line break occurred about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, customers who lost service said they did not receive calls from the authority until 5 or 6 p.m. A notice was posted on the authority's website about 5 p.m.

Kerr said the authority posted information on its website as soon as crews were able to inspect the break. The workers had to wait until earth-moving equipment pushed the earth and rock from the landslide off the roadway and away from the water line for the safety of the crews, he said.

Kerr said the authority did not want to post incorrect information.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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