It seems as though every time you turn a corner in the city, there is a construction site to be navigated.
This past week, I had the opportunity to tour the many projects we have going on with Mike Hale, the director of Public Works for Gloucester.
Basically, we continue to undergo a major rehabilitation of the drinking water system. The entire distribution system is being replaced in the neighborhood that is bordered by Stacy Boulevard, Centennial Avenue, and Washington Street to Tally’s corner.
This area has the oldest water pipes in the city, and has been prone to frequent breaks. All water for all parts of the city pass through these pipes. So a break in this “old city” area has an impact in terms of low pressure or brown water in East Gloucester, Bayview, Lanesville, Magnolia and other parts of Gloucester.
This is a densely populated neighborhood with many streets criss-crossing the area. The residents have been tremendously patient and cooperative. The project is almost complete, and soon we will be paving the entire area.
Also, the new water mains have new services to each water box outside the homes. Residents now have the option to replace the water lines on their property so that their water pressure and quality can be improved. Many homes have water lines that are 100 years old, too. Now is a good time to take advantage of the city’s investment in order to add value to your property.
New fire hydrants have been installed, and in some cases, based on the advice of the Fire Department, locations have been changed to more favorable sites from a firefighting perspective.
At Tally’s corner and Angle Street, the work has been to install a valve system. The distribution system, built over the course of the past 100 years or so, has never had a proper valve system. In the past, when there is a major water main break, all water in the city rushes to the site of the break. This drops water pressure in the entire city, and causes reverses in directional flow which in turn causes the brown water that we’ve all experienced.
A valve system allows the water department to shut down portions of the system, and isolate the impact of any break to controlled areas without impacting the entire city.
Over at the high school, there is a staging area for the new blue water mains that will be installed underneath the Annisquam River. Today, the water mains travel through a tunnel under the bridge tender’s house at the Cut Bridge on the Boulevard. Known as the “Spooner Tunnel,” it was built in 1906 out of bricks and blocks.
When you ask the director of public works, “what infrastructure keeps you awake at night?”, he will say, “the Spooner Tunnel.”
The new tunnel is much further away from the coastline, and is being drilled now. It is an amazing engineering feat. Across the river on Essex Avenue, the tunnel is being bored from there over to the high school area. Once completed, the new water mains will be dragged from the high school area through the tunnel to the other side. Each section of the mains are being fused together on site to make one long pipe.
All of these projects represent 100-year fixes, and as a community, we are stepping up to our generational responsibility to ensure a strong and stable drinking water system for our children and grandchildren and beyond.
Carolyn A. Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.