Routine water system testing by SUEZ has resulted in two water main breaks in Hoboken, disrupting water service, commutes, and daily life for many residents. Two water main breaks in one week is definitely a lot, but it seems like Hoboken has perhaps more than its fair share of water-system woes. From storm-related flooding to burst pipes, the infrastructure in the Mile Square could use some TLC. Read on for what we know about the water main breaks in Hoboken.
A Busy Week
On Tuesday, May 17th, SUEZ teams conducted a test shutdown in preparation for a forthcoming repair to the Jersey City/Hoboken Interconnection later this year. This interconnection is the primary main feeding water to Hoboken customers. Hoboken and Weehawken residents were advised of the possibility of lower water pressure and/or water discoloration as the tests were conducted.
On Wednesday, May 18th, a water main break was reported at 1st and Jefferson Streets in Southwestern Hoboken. At the same time, SUEZ technicians were working to conduct the aforementioned controlled closure of the Weehawken/Hoboken Interconnection, which impacted water pressure throughout the City. No loss of water service or water pressure was reported as a result of this water main break, and no boil water advisory was issued. The water repairs were completed on the same day, and road repairs continued into Thursday.
Water Main Break at 1st and Jefferson, May 18th, 2022
(Photo credit: @SUEZwaternj)
On Thursday, May 19th, a Nixle alert went out advising residents that “crews are conducting emergency repairs on a 12” water main on Madison between 1st & 3rd Streets, as well as a 16″ main on 2nd between Monroe & Jefferson.” Residents and nearby businesses were alerted to the possibility of loss of water pressure and/or water service.
Between the broken water mains and overnight rains, much of the impacted area faced standing water and other debris.
Cars parked in the impacted area were towed away so crews could complete repairs. The cars were towed to a location at 13th and Adams Street, and owners will not be charged for the emergency tow. As of Thursday morning, the City of Hoboken has water available to impacted residents located at 123 Madison Street.
If it seems like this happens with some regularity, you are right. In particular, the change of seasons is prime-time for water main breaks to occur because of the rapid change in temperature. So the beginning of winter and the beginning of the spring thaw are often when we experience these calamities. The rapid change in ground temperature is accompanied by soil saturated by rainwater and snowmelt.
The age of the pipes involved also plays a big role. According to the City of Hoboken, “Some parts of Hoboken’s water system are more than 100 years old. The majority of the system is nearing the end of its useful life. As cast-iron pipes age, they become brittle and are more prone to break from changes in temperature, pressure fluctuations, or vibrations.”
Images provided by SUEZ show debris of the broken pipe stamped with the date 1890.
Broken pipe with stamped 1890 date
(Photo credit: @SUEZwaternj)
According to the City, the pipes are so old because a past agreement failed to require SUEZ to invest in Hoboken’s water infrastructure. The City stated, “Beginning in 1994, the City of Hoboken sold the rights to the water system until 2024 (previous to the new SUEZ agreement in 2019). A 30-year revenue stream of approximately $240 million was sold to United Water (now SUEZ) in exchange for $13.2 million dollars in one-time payments. That former agreement required SUEZ to make almost no proactive investment in Hoboken’s water infrastructure. In the past two-plus decades, only $350,000 per year was invested in the system, and as a result, only 5% of the system was upgraded.”
The City offered the following information about what it is doing to rectify the issue:
New contract with SUEZ: In May of 2019, the City of Hoboken and SUEZ entered into a new water service contract investing at least $33 million in water infrastructure upgrades through 2034. The amended agreement established a new public water utility on July 1, 2019. It includes an average of $2.2 million in water investments per year, over six times the amount of the former contract. Additionally, the contract calls for $2 million in smart technology to monitor water consumption, which will save Hoboken ratepayers from paying for costly leaks.
Water main replacement project: The City began the first phase of its water main replacement project in 2019. Over 9,900 linear feet, or 1.86 miles, of water mains have already been replaced as of the end of 2021. The second phase of replacing over 5,000 linear feet of water mains is scheduled to begin later this year.
Comprehensive analysis of water main system: With support from professional engineering consultants, the City developed a comprehensive water system renewal program to make continued investments in Hoboken’s drinking water infrastructure. The program includes 67 discrete locations for water main replacement to upgrade an additional 20% of the system. This analysis has been and will continue to be used to guide the primary locations of the current and upcoming water main replacement projects.Washington Street redesign: As part of the Washington Street redesign, the City upgraded more than 1.25 miles of water mains and service lines on Washington Street. The project was financed by a $7 million low-interest loan from the NJ Infrastructure Bank.
While the long-term plan sounds great, it doesn’t help if your car has been towed or your morning shower couldn’t happen.
Residents can pick up water provided by SUEZ at 123 Madison Street.
All Hoboken residents should sign up for Nixle alerts to be up to date with the latest from the City.