June 5 was not a good day for residents of Reed Street in Milton after a water main break flooded the street.
Town Manager Kristy Rogers said the town did not become aware of the break until about 11:30 a.m. after a posting on Facebook that the street was underwater. She said the main was an old cement pipe that had cracked; crews led by Public Works Director Greg Wingo worked until 2:30 a.m., June 6, to control the break and clean up the street.
“The more they repaired, the more it cracked. They had to continue to repair until they had a complete fix. Water was gushing,” she said.
Rogers said crews had to dig a pit and install a sump pump in order to remove water from the break.
Water infrastructure has been a big focus for the town over the past four years. The town has built a new water main loop at Wagamon’s West Shores, put in a new well and treatment plant in Shipbuilder’s Village, and rebuilt water mains on Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic Street and Chestnut Street, the latter of which has caused some sporadic water outages as new pipes were installed. In the future, the town is planning to use $1.6 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for a new well and treatment facility on town land on Federal Street next to the rails to trails. That land has also been proposed to be the site of a new water tower in the future.
Mayor John Collier said, “This is an older town and the water system, for lack of a better word, is cobbled together. As the town expanded, they added on. Not everything is accurately mapped. It’s not bad, but it's not perfect, and we do discover things.”
In 2021, the town’s water committee presented a seven-year plan for water infrastructure upgrades. Among the items in the plan are upgrading the water treatment plant on Chandler Street, and upgrading water mains on Mill Street, Carey Street and Walnut Street. The Mill Street and Walnut Street upgrades would require road restoration as part of the project. Carey Street is a connector street that runs between Lavinia Street and Lake Drive.
While Reed Street was not among those in the plan, Rogers said plans could change; much of the seven-year plan is dependent on funding sources. The projects at Wagamon’s and Shipbuilder’s were funded with state loans, while the Chestnut/Atlantic project was funded via a loan where the town only had to pay interest through the construction phase, after which the loan would be forgiven.
The recent water outages were on the mind of town council at its June 6 meeting, when it established a public works emergency notification policy. Intended to establish a clear process for emergency communication in the event of an interruption of town services, the policy states the public works director is to immediately notify the town manager, who would then be responsible for disseminating information to the public. The policy requires the public works director to provide updates to the town manager every 90 minutes until services are restored.
Among the methods the town has for getting information to the public are the town website, the Milton Police Department’s Facebook page and the CodeRED alert system.
Collier said, “We have to do better with notifying our citizens when they are going to be inconvenienced by reduced access, reduced water or no water. We just have to be better about it.”
Both Rogers and Collier encouraged citizens to sign up for the CodeRED system, which gives a notification via phone call, text or email in the event of an emergency.
“Not everyone looks at the town website anymore and not everyone looks at Facebook, so that is a direct communication with our citizens,” Rogers said.