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Water main break clogs Tamaqua traffic

Water flowed freely. Traffic did not.

Delays on Route 309 in Tamaqua were longer than usual this week because of a water main break on the north end of town which leaked water at a rate of about 1 million gallons per day. The town also put a boil water advisory in place.

While Route 309 was expected to be fully opened Friday night, the boil water advisory will remain in place through Tuesday.

“The main was repaired, the trench was backfilled, the road is being repaired,” borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt said Friday afternoon.

Early in the week, the Tamaqua Area Water Authority detected a major leak in its system and traced it to a break in a 30-inch pipe on the north end of town.

Friday afternoon, crews finished fixing the broken pipe and repaving a dug-up section of 309, which measured about 30 by 25 feet.

The leak took multiple days to pinpoint and repair because the pipe was surrounded by concrete. In the meantime, traffic snarled in town. Drivers reported spending upward of 45 minutes in traffic trying to get into town. Others took long detours.

Tamaqua schools dismissed an hour early to get buses on the roads ahead of typical Friday afternoon traffic.

The borough attributed the leak to general wear and tear. The pipe is decades old and was originally built by Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company to provide water from Still Creek Reservoir for its mining operations.

The amount of water lost from the leak totaled about 1 million gallons per day. The Still Creek Reservoir holds nearly 3 billion gallons.

Since the leak caused pressure to drop in the borough water system, the borough advised residents to boil water. The advisory is in effect for residents living south of the break - meaning the entire borough and customers in West Penn Township.

Residents can use the water to clean, but the borough recommends boiling water before drinking or cooking with it.

Restaurants had to adjust to longer delivery times and find other sources for their water.

Hope & Coffee bought bagged ice for drinks because it couldn’t use its ice machine.

La Dolce Casa - DiMaggio’s bought dozens of cases of water for customers, and brought in a water tank to serve its customers.

“You have to make the best of it. It’s nothing we have control over,” said Alfie Picone, the restaurant’s owner.

A worker with Flagger Force directs traffic along Route 309 in Tamaqua Friday afternoon. A water main break beneath the road snarled traffic in the borough. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS