When the major water main break occurred in West New York last year, turning many of the streets into rivers and forcing more than 200,000 people to live without water, it got some of North Hudson’s mayors thinking.
“When that break occurred, we didn’t have enough water to fight fires,” Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said. “We had our fire trucks driving around with pump trucks all day with water just in case. It was a dangerous situation. We’re not talking about having water for drinking and other uses. We’re talking the emergency situations like fires.”
During the time of that break in West New York, all of Union City lost its water supply, as well as two-thirds of Weehawken and portions of West New York and North Bergen. It was a legitimate drought.
So Turner, Union City Mayor Brian Stack and West New York Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega met with officials from United Water, which supplies water service to most of the area, and devised a plan that would guarantee service in the time of an emergency like a water main break.
Emergency water supply
The result was an emergency pumping station that has been installed at the Weehawken Reservoir on Palisades Avenue and High Point Avenue.
The new system, which cost about $300,000 to install, is a diesel engine driven pump, which means that it would continue to operate without needing electricity or a generator to operate.
“We certainly don’t want what happened last year to happen again,” said United Water spokesman Rich Henning. “It falls under the category of whatever could go wrong will go wrong. We have a number of valves that are supposed to protect us in case of a water main break, but when that valve broke, it started a domino effect and left 200,000 people without water instead of perhaps 100. We expressed disappointment that something like that did occur and we didn’t want to have that many people with little or no water pressure at all.”
Added Henning, “Mayors Stack, Turner and Vega were rightly concerned that they spent most of that day with little fire protection. It’s a densely populated area and there is a huge impact if there is little or no water. The mayors helped us out with the difficulties and helped us realize that there was a wide range area that was affected. It was important that they provided that type of information.”
United Water then had engineers devise a plan that would provide water in case of a water main break.
“We installed the new pumping station and added some new valves,” Henning said.
“This represents our commitment to ensuring the best possible service to our customers in Hudson County,” said United Water vice president Jim Glozzy. “This new pumping station is designed to eliminate the potential for such a wide water outage, and help communities provide fire protection during those critical situations.”
“At least there’s some protection now,” Turner said. “We needed to have a major backup system in place, because you never know when something is going to happen.”
“All the improvements we make never prevent water main breaks from happening,” Henning said. “They’re going to happen. But we now have this new pump station right at the reservoir in Weehawken that’s going to be a major help in the time of need.”
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org