Water and gas main breaks increase in Williamston

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Georgia Street in Williamston experienced a water main break.

The city of Williamston had a third water main break, and a gas main break in late February, showing signs of aging infrastructure. 

“We have our fair share of water main breaks in the winter months typically,” City Manager Corey Schmidt said. “This winter has been worse than the other two that I’ve been here. In fact, I don’t know that we had even close to three the last two winters, and we are already at three this winter.” 

The city became aware of the water main break on Georgia Street in the middle of the day on Monday, and it was fixed by 5 p.m. Depending on how quickly the location of the break can be found and how much of the pipe is damaged or cracked will determine how quickly it can be fixed. 

Gas main breaks

City Engineer and Director of Public Works, Scott DeVries, said the water mains and gas mains suffer the same kinds of problems because they date back before the 1950s and ‘60s when cast iron was used, which is more brittle than modern materials. He said the oldest pipes in town are from 1905, but the water main on Georgia Street is from the 1930s and the gas main on High Street is from the 1920s. 

The city of Williamston has roughly five miles of cast iron water main in the system and is estimated to take two or three decades to replace. Two feet of pipe was cut out and replaced on Georgia Street. 

High Street residents experienced the gas main break. Consumers Energy did not know about the gas leak right away and had to evacuate a few homes until the danger of methane eased. Consumers Energy is replacing a half block of gas main pipes and service lines to 10 houses. 

“I do want to confirm that they are doing a good job out front,” said Noah Belanger, city council’s mayor pro tempore, during the city council meeting on Feb. 22. “They actually entered our home several times every two hours with meters and they went down in our basement; they checked other events so they were very concerned, but they were very responsive to the community over here. The only thing I don’t like is there’s lights and hammering and stuff going on 24/7.”

Standing in front of High Street, where a gas main break occurred, Shelby Frink explains Williamston’s recurring problems with their aging pipelines.

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