VIDEO

Water main break floods section of Portland, causes contamination scare

Posted Dec. 19, 2012, at 10:39 a.m.
Last modified Dec. 19, 2012, at 6:06 p.m.
A workman uses a rake to clear storm drains on Somerset Street in Portland on Wednesday morning, Dec. 19, 2012 after a water main break.
A workman uses a rake to clear storm drains on Somerset Street in Portland on Wednesday morning, Dec. 19, 2012 after a water main break. Buy Photo
A van is pulled from a sink hole on Somerset Street in Portland on Wednesday morning, Dec. 19, 2012 after a water main break.
A van is pulled from a sink hole on Somerset Street in Portland on Wednesday morning, Dec. 19, 2012 after a water main break. Buy Photo
Cars emerge from the receding waters on Somerset Street in Portland on Wednesday morning, Dec. 19, 2012 after a water main break.
Cars emerge from the receding waters on Somerset Street in Portland on Wednesday morning, Dec. 19, 2012 after a water main break. Buy Photo
This map, distributed by the city of Portland, shows a traffic detour around roads flooded by a water main break on Dec. 19, 2012.
City of Portland
This map, distributed by the city of Portland, shows a traffic detour around roads flooded by a water main break on Dec. 19, 2012.

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PORTLAND, Maine — Portland Water District officials said Wednesday night that they don’t believe city drinking water was contaminated by a Somerset Street water main break that closed two schools and flooded a section of the Bayside neighborhood.

However, additional tests are necessary to determine if bacteria is present, and residents in the affected area are being asked to continue boiling their water before consumption at least until mid-morning Thursday, a district spokeswoman said.

“If any of the results are unsatisfactory then the boil order could last longer for some or all of the affected area,” Portland Water District spokeswoman Michelle Clements stated in a Wednesday evening announcement. “Currently, the leak is being repaired and is expected to be fixed by midnight. About a dozen hydrants were flushed around the peninsula and the water from these hydrants appeared normal.”

The water main break was first reported Wednesday morning and the district issued a boil order at 9:30 a.m. for all residents living east of Interstate 295. The order directed consumers to boil water for at least five minutes before “drinking, making ice cubes, washing food, brushing teeth or in any other activity involving consumption of water.”

Classes at East End Community School and Reiche Community School were canceled for the day, while Portland High School remained open, according to an announcement from Portland Public Schools.

Traffic on sections of Somerset Street and Elm Street were completely shut down to traffic, according to Portland city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg, and detours were in place throughout the day.

Some area businesses also felt the effect of the water main break. Boda, a Thai restaurant at 671 Congress St., told customers through its Facebook page that it would remain closed Wednesday because of the break, but planned to open with regular hours Thursday.

The bistro Petite Jacqueline at 190 State St. posted online that it would stay open through the ordeal, but would take state-mandated steps to ensure customers were not receiving potentially contaminated water, by discontinuing beverages made with water, using bottled or boiled water for washing and cooking, and serving commercially packaged ice.

Wednesday’s incident represents at least the 11th water main break on district lines since late August.

After the first nine, the district launched an internal investigation into the frequency of the breaks, the highest profile of which was a Sept. 6 event on Broadway in South Portland that backed up morning commuter traffic for miles and forced the temporary closures of several nearby businesses.

That investigation determined no negligence on the part of the water district, but also could not determine the direct cause of six of the nine breaks.

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