Source: AP

Crews worked Sunday on a quicker-than-expected fix to a major water break that left some 2 million people in the Boston area without clean water.

Residents were told to boil water for drinking or cooking since some untreated water has entered the system. It remained safe for showering and toilet flushing.

“It’s like lake water,” said Frederick Laskey, executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. “You’ll swim in it, but not drink it.”

Adding to the pressure was an unseasonably warm spring forecast for the area, with the temperature predicted to reach a summer-like 88 degrees.

There also were economic and social impacts: Restaurants in suburban Lexington shut down Saturday night, unable to wash dishes or serve customers clean water, while police in Revere had to be called into a BJ’s Wholesale Club after a run on bottled water turned unruly.

“It was a little unclear whether we could bathe or not,” said Leenoel Chase, who was searching for coffee amid the closed shops in Lexington. “I forgot and almost brushed my teeth.”

She replaced a planned pasta dinner Saturday night with a more adventurous — but less water-demanding — souffle.

The breach was reported Saturday morning in Weston, about 10 miles west of Boston. It was in a coupling holding together two sections of a 10-foot-wide metal pipe that carries 250 million gallons of treated water a day from the Quabbin Reservoir to some 750,000 households in 30 communities.

Officials initially said a repair might take weeks, but diverted parts from a nearby project and welders modified them in a matter of hours.

They installed the bottom half by noon, then began attaching the top half. They then planned pressure and water quality tests, aiming to finish the work by Monday.

“The extent of the damage is not as great as we feared,” Patrick said after donning a pair of work boots and climbing into the hole to watch the welders at work. He cautioned that pressure tests might reveal other breaks.

Officials remained puzzled by the cause, since the break — which occurred in a seam sealed with rubber gaskets — was in a stretch of pipe just seven years old. They said they would be checking the blueprints for other similar connections, to assess the risk of another breach.

“It could have been, you know, a design flaw, it could have been a construction flaw, it could have been that the product was faulty, it could have been something in our system,” said Laskey. “There’s just so many different variables that come into play here when you’re dealing with that much strength.”

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