Pipe Bursts at Chatsworth Bridge: Costly Repairs Expected

by Judy Silberstein

(August 30, 2006) A burst water pipe on the Chatsworth Avenue Bridge over the thruway and train tracks sent water gushing down the embankment near the Mamaroneck Town kiosk on Monday morning, August 28. Larchmont’s Department of Public Works and water system workers rushed to stem the flow, and local firefighters called in water tankers from Armonk and Pound Ridge to compensate for a potential lack of hydrant power. “The clamp had rotted and the pipe underneath had rotted,” reported Mayor Liz Feld.

pipe burst
Craig Stofko and Rick Vetere from Larchmont's Department of Public Work use a scaffold erected under the Chatsworth Bridge to patch a purst pipe.

The burst pipe wasn't the only water event this week. Some of the respondents to Monday's incident were pulled away from attending to an unrelated water leak at the other end of Chatsworth Avenue in front of the Larchmont Post Office. Repairing that leak required delicate digging by hand to avoid the many gas and electrical conduits buried nearby. Rainy weather for most of the day added to the discomfort of work at both projects.

Ironically, it was a potential lack of water that concerned the firefighters. “If your house had caught on fire and we had opened up a hydrant, we would not have known if we had enough water to put it out,” said Deputy Fire Chief Tom Broderick. “We are very grateful to the departments who assisted us.” Between them, the two out-of-town tankers hold 6500 gallons of water and, in case of a fire, would have shuttled back and forth from a working hydrant in Mamaroneck Town.

The situation was mostly relieved by bringing in a backup connection, reported Henry Oswald, the operator of Larchmont’s water system. By 6:30 pm the pipe was patched, but “with the age and condition of the pipe, the same thing could happen further down the pipe,” said Mr. Oswald. “One of the fittings had a date of 1959, probably from when they put in the thruway.”

“This highlights the reason that we need to make capital improvements to our 100-year-old infrastructure before there’s a catastrophe,” said Mayor Feld. “This is a public safety and a public health issue - thank goodness this wasn’t the winter,” she said, imagining the ice that would have formed. It was also fortunate that the broken section was not further down the bridge where the rushing water and subsequent repairs might have required shutting down I-95 or Metro North.

Further repairs will be required, including the total replacement of the Chatsworth pipe. Mayor Liz Feld had been in contact with engineering firms that could help with the design and build process.

The repairs won't be cheap. “Estimates going back to 2001 to replace the pipe were below $100,000, said Mayor Feld. “We are now looking at multiples of that.”

Pipe Figured in 2006 Village Elections

When and whether to replace the Chatsworth pipe had been the subject of a heated political debate in March 2006 between mayoral candidates Ken Bialo, the incumbent, and Liz Feld, then a Village trustee. During the League of Women Voters’ forum, Ms. Feld pointed to a 2004 exit memo from Larchmont’s former engineer that advised attending to the water main over the Chatsworth Bridge, scheduling replacement of the water tank, and conducting a water leak survey. She contended that none of the items had been addressed. She also expressed concern that a new in-house engineer had not been hired. Her opponent argued that “the water tanks and water pipelines are working just fine,” and that consulting engineers were providing services at a potential savings. (See: The Mayor Debate. )

So What’s Been Done Since The Election?

“In the last few months, we’ve conducted an inspection of our two water tanks (at Byram Place) and we have retained an engineering specialist to conduct a leak survey of all of the pipes throughout the village to account for the unaccounted water consumption,” said Mayor Feld. “We’ve also reached out to New Rochelle and Mamaroneck to bolster our chances of getting county and state funding on the Pine Brook flooding problem.” (See: Tanks, Pumps & Pipes Suggested for Pine Brook Flooding and also Sound Shore Communities Appeal to County For Help with Flooding.)

“We’ve also retained Jim Maxwell, former Commissioner of Public Works in New Rochelle, to tackle the dry weather flow and ice patch problem throughout the Village.” A 2003 study identified approximately 80 properties where water discharges illegally into the street, many with “type 1” problems that could be corrected relatively easily by hooking into nearby drains. Mr. Maxwell’s task is to coordinate between homeowners and the Village to resolve the 43 remaining “type I” problems before winter begins. (See: Villlage Ponders Solutions to "Dry Weather Flow.")

The mayor also said she is interviewing to fill the slot of Village engineer left vacant since 2004. “We’re trying to take care of the Village the way people take care of their homes,” concluded Mayor Feld.