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Editorial: Fix pipes in Rotterdam permanently

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
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The people at the State Fair who ranked Rotterdam's water the best tasting in the state sure didn't get their samples from the giant puddle on Princetown Road.

Or the one on Bernard Street. Or from any of the other places in town where water that was supposed to be heading to residents' homes through pipes burst to the surface during a number of water main breaks over the summer.

For too long, the town has taken a piecemeal approach to its aging water system, now about 60 years old and counting, fixing each leak as it comes instead of doing a system-wide repair.

Water studies dating back more than a decade have been back-burnered in favor of trying to make it through water crises with baling wire and bubble gum.

For the residents and businesses of Rotterdam who have to drink this water all year-round, and deal with the inconveniences when the pipes burst, it's time the town take permanent steps to resolve the problems.

Unfortunately, expensive repairs mean rising expenses for water customers. But in the long run, it's better to have clean, reliable water at a high price than pay thousand of dollars each time to repair pipes and go without water whenever a poorly maintained line cracks and breaks under the stress.

The town could begin the long-term repair process by identifying where the lines are damaged now.

That would involve paying a company to send remote cameras down through the lines to identify leaks and fissures in the pipes. With those sites identified, town officials could head off a repair before it's needed.

But identifying existing cracks is only the first step in the long repair process. Winter frost, age of pipes and other forces will conspire to burst pipes even after the camera examination.

Another recommendation by a former longtime town water employee involves installing sensors in some of the pipes to indicate when pressure threatens to burst them. That might help avert a break and initiate a repair, but it won't solve the problem.

While another water study will cost money, maybe the town can use the last study, conducted in 2003, as the basis for an updated study. That way, they can present a number of alternatives and cost estimates to taxpayers to determine what most effective way to permanently resolve the town's water issues at the lowest cost.

Upgrading the water system is going to be expensive. But better to resolve problems with the system now than keep paying for repairs and keep being inconvenienced by regular breaks.

Tasty water is great. Reliable, tasty water is even better.

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