Major water main break impacts thousands, prompts state of emergency in a northern New York county

Oct 19, 2023, 5:35 PM

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — A state of emergency was issued Thursday in a northern New York county, where the Fort Drum U.S. Army base is located, following a major water main break that has left tens of thousands without water.

Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado said 32,000 gallons (121,000 liters) of drinking water from six of the state’s regional stockpiles, as well as 11 water tankers, an incident management team and other staff, were being deployed to Watertown, a community of more than 24,500 people located more than 170 miles (275 kilometers) northwest of Albany.

Smaller nearby communities have also been affected by the water shortage. Officials said a total of more than 45,000 people have been impacted.

“We’re here with you and we’re going to do everything we can moving forward to ensure that we resolve this as fast as we can,” Delgado said during an evening news briefing.

He was joined by other state and local leaders, as well as officials from Fort Drum, which has provided thousands of gallons of drinking water from its own system to the community as well, with promises to provide more if necessary.

Watertown Mayor Jeffrey Smith said a 12-foot-long (3.6-meter) piece of piping from the city’s water treatment plant, likely about 50 years old, split late Wednesday night. He said after the piping is expected to be repaired on Thursday night, workers will begin pressurizing the system, a process that could take 24 to 36 hours. Smith warned that more water breaks might occur, given the age of parts of the water system.

“We’re hoping by Saturday, Sunday at the latest, that the reservoirs and the system is filled and then another two-to-three days after that, you’ll have to boil water,” said Smith, estimating people will have to boil water for 48 to 72 hours.

Multiple water stations were being set up in Watertown where residents can obtain bottled and canned water, as well as fill up their own containers. Both drinking and non-potable water is available.

The Watertown City School District will be closed on Friday.

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Major water main break impacts thousands, prompts state of emergency in a northern New York county