Photo: Brighton Street on Christmas Eve.
It was already a cold and dank Christmas Eve afternoon as the sun was setting on two crews from Belmont Water Department’s Distribution and Maintenance services.
After spending hours digging up Brighton Street next to the Hill Estates seeking a major water main leak, the workers discovered the break was not in the 10-inch main but a six-inch pipe – bearing the date “1888” – on the other side of the street.
“It occasionally happens that our best guess is wrong,” said Mike Bishop, the Department of Public Works’ Water Division manager on Tuesday, Dec. 27. It would mean filling in the first trench and dig a new one in the dark hours before Christmas.
Around the same time, homeowners on Washington Street called the town to report a “geyser” of water was gushing out of a manhole cover directly across from the entry of the Chenery Middle School.
‘That turned out to be an eight-foot long slit in a 10-inch main,” said Bishop, likely caused by air in the system introduced into the pipe from recent work along Common Street.
“That pocket of air was just looking for a weak point in the system,” said Bishop.
Two major breaks at the same time which just happened to be on Dec. 24th.
“Unfortunately we can’t predict when these will happen. We just have to send the crews out and get the job done,” said Bishop.
As the employees began breaking up the street for the second time, word got out among those living on Pond Street, Hill Road and Brighton Street of those workers preparing for a long night to provide town services.
First one, then another and still more came by to drop off coffee, pastries, food and a “thank you” to the half-dozen or so digging for a pipe in the dark. The Brighton Street work was completed just before St. Nick flew into Belmont around midnight.
When the crews came to make the repairs on Washington in the late morning of Christmas Day, residents from around the site stopped to wish them Merry Christmas and leave off gifts of food and drinks.
For Bishop, the response of residents was gratifying.
“It was phenomenal,” he said of the gestures of good will.
“It’s the little things that go a long way for the crews,” said Bishop, who used social media to thank the town folks.
“Sometimes [the employees] don’t see how appreciated their work is. But this one time that [residents] just coming by did a lot of good.”