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Norwich Residents Conserving Water After Fire

Norwich residents who depend on the town water system are still being asked to conserve water until further notice, following a fire last week at the pump house.

The call about the blaze came to Norwich's water distribution manager, Sam Eaton, around 3 a.m. Wednesday, August 7.  He was a little skeptical at first.

"When he said the pump house was on fire, I said, 'You sure it was my pump house?'" Eaton recalled.

Unfortunately, the pump house was ablaze, and the electrical systems were destroyed. Eaton rallied some electricians, found a generator, and got the pump up and running, so that water could flow from two wells into a 500,000 gallon reservoir. But he says the town's 360 water customers should still limit their use, until further notice. Bathing and cooking are fine, he says, but they should hold off on non-essential things like lawn watering and car washing.

"Because we are still really running on a band-aid, but we are very hopeful," Eaton said.

Hopeful, he says, that the interim system will hold out until it can be replaced and the building re-built. Hopeful that there won't be any more fires, because the reservoir also supplies the water needed to fight them.  And he’s hopeful the state fire investigator will discover the cause. Arson has not been ruled out.  

Meanwhile, large customers like the Norwich Inn are putting off projects like pressure washing the fence. Diane Borzoni is Maintenance Manager.

 "We've let our guests know that are staying here to try to conserve water. We're doing what we can for the town," Borzoni said.

 The town hopes the water system will be back to normal in a few days, though it will probably take longer than that to replace and upgrade all the equipment. If necessary, it will tap into nearby Hanover's supply, but pumping water from outside Norwich could trigger a boil water order, even if the supply is safe.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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