Water main break affects 2 million in Boston area

BOSTON — Water to 2 million people in Boston and more than two dozen suburbs is unsuitable for drinking after a break in a pipe that connects a central Massachusetts reservoir to the area.

Repairs on the 10-foot-wide pipe in Weston began Saturday evening after state officials stopped the leak. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority head Fred Laskey says he hopes it can be fixed in "days, not weeks."

The broken pipe had been leaking water into the Charles River at a rate of 8 million gallons an hour.

The state began drawing water from various reservoirs for bathing, flushing and fire protection. But that water isn't suitable for drinking, so a boil-water order was imposed in 30 communities.

It wasn't immediately clear if the order would remain in effect until the repairs were complete.

Authority Director Frederick Laskey called the break "unprecedented" and said it came at a critical area in the system.

"It's highly unusual and catastrophic in nature," he said.

The pipe carries water from the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts to the Boston area. The break was discovered at about 10 a.m. Saturday and continued to worsen until authorities were forced to shut down the water running through it.

Laskey said the pipe was "relatively new" — installed just six or seven years ago.

"It's a complex area of piping," he said. "It's a large pipe. It was probably custom made. So it's not as if there's a yard we can go and pick one up and just go and put it in. It's a big problem."

Area residents were notified about the order through reverse 911 calls and various media and public announcements.