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Water main under bridge leaks up to 75,000 gallons per day

NASHUA – A broken water main under the Veterans Memorial Bridge, which spans the Merrimack River from Hudson to Nashua, is leaking up to 75,000 gallons of Pennichuck Corp. water per day.

“We deliver water to Hudson through that line, but the line was installed, owned and maintained by the town of Hudson,” Pennichuck Chief Operating Officer Donald Ware said Thursday when contacted by The Telegraph.

Pipes run from Hudson to Nashua on the underside of the westbound bridge, with one carrying water and one transporting natural gas. Hudson Town Engineer Elvis Dhima said there is no safety risk involved with this water main break. He said said he learned of the problem one week ago.

Dhima said the town has since contacted different companies in an effort to get a bucket under the area from which the water is flowing.

“While we’re able to identify the location, we are not able to get into it due to the limited space at the girders and the bucket,” Dhima said.

He said Hudson officials worked with a natural gas company, who conducted an inspection Thursday.

Hudson contracts with Whitewater Inc., which he said is the town’s water operator. Dhima emphasized said this is a challenging repair.

Meanwhile, clean drinking water continues leaking out of the approximately 50-year-old pipe.

Dhima said officials do not yet know what caused the line to break, though acknowledging normal wear and tear adds up after 50 years of New Hampshire weather – particularly when the pipe is stretched across the Merrimack River.

He said it is challenging to calculate exactly how much drinking water is being lost because of the different pressures. However, he estimates the system is losing anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 gallons a day.

“It’s the first time we dealt with this,” Dhima said.

He said from what officials can tell, the water is coming from the top of the pipe, not the bottom, adding he believes this is particularly rare.

Officials are trying to shut things off at night, but have to keep the tanks running for storage for domestic and fire protection. In any event, they are trying to minimize the loss.

The plan moving forward is to find a company to set up scaffolding under the girders so a platform can be installed to allow repair workers to reach the broken pipe.

Dhima said he believes there is either a crack or a hole on the top of the pipe, which he said is probably due to erosion.

“The pipe is about 50-years-old, and we’re hoping to get someone in this weekend, or early next week if possible,” Dhima said. “It’s one of a kind – we’ve never had this before.”

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.