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Valley News Dispatch

Allegheny Township officials concerned about lack of communication during water main break

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, 10:24 a.m.

Allegheny Township officials said it’s a good thing there wasn’t a house fire in the township over Labor Day weekend because firefighters wouldn’t have known fire hydrants weren’t working.

That’s because the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County didn’t tell the township about a water main break in the township’s Hawk Valley neighborhood Saturday morning until more than 12 hours after it happened.

The break happened around 8 a.m. Sept. 1. Township officials said they were unaware of it until 10 p.m. that night.

Township Manager Greg Primm said, had a fire happened while the water was out, the fire department wouldn’t have known the hydrants weren’t working and wouldn’t have known to bring tankers.

Water wasn’t restored until 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Lee Schumaker, the township’s emergency management officer, will be setting up a meeting with authority officials to discuss notification protocol, in hopes of ensuring such a situation does not happen again.

Following that weekend, authority spokesman Matt Junker refused to provide any information on how the break was handled, including detailing where and when it happened, what areas and how many customers were affected, and why it took more than a day to repair.

“We’ve had internal discussions,” he said. “We’re not prepared to publicize this.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, the authority issued a statement in which it said they would be “pleased” to meet with township officials.

“We have discussed making a capital improvement in the area that would allow water to be directed to Hawk Valley and others from another direction should this type of break occur again,” the statement said.

The statement said the authority notified Westmoreland County 911 of the water main break on Alabama Avenue at 7:50 a.m. on Sept. 1 and the subsequent break at Pitt Street in Leechburg at 5:50 a.m. Sept. 2.

“Several repair crews worked continuously to repair the breaks over multiple shifts,” the statement said.

The authority cited challenges in the repairs, including that the initial site was near a stream bed, requiring special equipment to keep workers safe and to keep groundwater out of the repair area.

Two more breaks happened after the first break was fixed - one near the original break, the second on Pitt Street.

“State law mandates that MAWC wait up to four hours to have other utilities mark nearby lines,” the statement said. “When the subsequent break occurred at Pitt Street, we had to wait for the utilities to be marked again at that site.”

The authority also noted that it provided bottled water and a water buffalo at two locations.

Freelance writer George Guido contributed to this report. Brian Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, brittmeyer@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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