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Que pipeline breaks again along Route 985

January 8, 2019

The Quemahoning pipeline broke early Monday in a familiar place: between Lamonica’s Restaurant and the Somerset Historical Center along Route 985.

An alarm sounded around 3 a.m. Terry Stutzman, chief plant operator, was the first to answer, arriving at 3:30.

The water was shut off for 15 hours to repair the break and flush the system, but no customers went without water over that period, said Matt Estep, another chief plant operator, as he and Stutzman supervised 10 workers at the site.

A 300,000-gallon storage tank in the vicinity was used to provide water to Lincoln Township customers and was replenished when the pipeline in that section went back online, he said.

A Stoy Excavating crew replaced the damaged pipe, according to Stutzman. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation sent a crew to sweep rocks and gravel from a nearby road and salt the affected area.

The system lost about 1.5 million gallons of water Monday before that section of the pipeline could be closed, Stutzman said.

The Quemahoning pipeline delivers millions of gallons of water to approximately 16,000 customers in Somerset and Boswell boroughs and Somerset, Lincoln, Conemaugh and Jenner townships. Water began to flow through the 22-mile-long pipeline, which runs north to south, in 2009. The system delivers bulk water to municipal water authorities, which feed individual residences and businesses.

That section of pipeline, along Route 985, has ruptured at least nine times since 2009.

“That seems to be the section we have the most trouble out there,” Commissioner Gerald Walker said.

Last year there were six breaks, and over the decade-long life of the pipeline there has been a total of 26 to 28 breaks, Stutzman said in a follow-up telephone call.

The Somerset County General Authority operates the water system. The county commissioners are not on the general authority board, but the commissioners appoint authority board members and pay for the water system’s bills.

A break like the one on Monday costs the county between $10,000 and $15,000, Walker said. and because the break was in the PennDOT right of way, the cost will be at the higher end, Stutzman said.

Walker called the incident unfortunate.

“But all the water plant operators get it up and running as soon as they can,” he said.

Stutzman lauded the crew.

“We have everybody who knows what to do and when to do it,” he said.

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