Give us a break – another water main break

A water main break on Oct. 23 is no indication of a new wave of infrastructure problems in Highland Park, officials have said.

About 21 homes were affected by the recent break, which hit Wayne Street between North Second and North Third avenues. Crews from the Highland Park Department of Public Works (DPW) spent about eight hours replacing a 12-foot section of pipe due to the crack.

The break comes shortly after the borough engaged in a significant repair job on Montgomery Street, where residents had endured a number of disruptions in their water service as the water main there broke multiple times.

Borough Administrator Kathleen Kovach said the more recent break had no connection to the woes on Montgomery Street.

“Prior to this year, about 90 percent of our water main breaks were on Montgomery Street. We fixed that,” she said.

Borough officials attributed the break to two things. One lesser but still contributing factor is the age of the infrastructure itself; Highland Park’s water mains were first laid nearly a century ago. But Donald Rish, superintendent of the DPW, named a more primary culprit: basic geology.

Beneath its pavement and the topsoil, Highland Park rests atop a layer of shale. The shale shifts as the temperature changes from one season to the next and the same natural forces that lift sidewalks and damage roads eventually can crack even the strongest water main.

“Water main breaks are a natural thing,” said Mr. Rish. “They’ll never stop.”

Borough officials did not know at this time how much the Wayne Street break would cost.

“It’s a relatively cheap fix compared to Montgomery Street,” Mr. Rish said.

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