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Cold Weather Contributes to Unusual Number of Water Main Breaks

Fair Lawn has had about 22 water main breaks since Thanksgiving.

Workers repair a water main break on Morlot Avenue. File photo.
Workers repair a water main break on Morlot Avenue. File photo.
Waves of cold weather have contributed to an unusual number of water main breaks in Fair Lawn this winter, according to borough engineer Ken Garrison.

There have been about 22 breaks in the borough since Thanksgiving, Garrison said. This winter has seen the largest number of breaks in nearly 20 years, he estimated.

Several other factors have also contributed to the breaks. Some parts of Fair Lawn's water infrastructure are 80 or 90 years old, according to Garrison. Also, the Morlot Avenue water tower normally "acts as a big shock absorber to the system" for water pressure, but the tank is currently empty because of the project to clean and repaint it.

"We'll see a surge in water pressure throughout the system that is more instantaneous," Garrison said.

Officials do what they can to prevent future breaks, but there haven't been any patterns so far, Garrison said. The breaks have occurred across Fair Lawn and in pipes ranging from 6" to 16" in diameter. There has been a mix of crack breaks and pressure breaks — a total blow-out — he said.

A system-wide replacement would be "an extraordinary expense," borough manager Jim Van Kruiningen said during a council meeting this month. Officials just need to continue being vigilant with their maintenance of the infrastructure and replacing parts as needed, Garrison said.

"It's the nature of the industry," he said.

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