MWRA finds piece of coupling that caused water main break

By Brian MacQuarrie
Globe Staff / June 18, 2010

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After more than a month of futile searching, a small piece of the failed coupling that caused the water main break on May 1 has been discovered in Weston. The piece, an 11-by-12-inch sealing plate, was found Wednesday during grading work between the Charles River and the mammoth pipe that supplies water to much of Greater Boston.

The lightweight sealing plate is one of two such pieces that were used to secure the coupling around the 10-foot-diameter pipe. Ria Convery, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, said additional searching on Wednesday did not uncover other pieces of the 1,200-pound steel coupling.

The coupling is considered a critical piece of evidence in the investigation into the water break that deprived 2 million people of reliable drinking water for three days. During that time, residents in Boston and most of its surrounding suburbs were instructed to boil water before performing such routine tasks as brushing their teeth.

The search, which has cost $137,000, has been suspended until next week, when the MWRA plans to bore into an excavation pit next to the pipe. Potential hot spots have been identified there, where the soft, sandy soil has made digging difficult and posed possible saying dangers for the pipe.

Contractors dug 20 feet into the ground and 3 feet under the pipe in their unsuccessful effort to find the coupling, which consists of two large pieces of metal that measure a combined 31 feet long.

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at

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