© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA - With rushed and shoddy work blamed on a series of water pipeline leaks that resulted in the re-excavation of Oak Street, Mass. Water Resource Authority (MWRA) officials assured the Board of Selectmen the mishaps will not be carried forward into the next phase of the project. 

During a gathering on Tuesday night in Town Hall, MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey insisted a general contractor, Dracut-based Albanese D&S, will uphold its contract terms by wrapping-up the restoration of damaged property and roadways in and around Oak Street by the end-of-this summer.

Laskey appeared before the Board of Selectmen to explain why crews had returned en-masse to dig-up large swaths of Oak Street, where between April of 2017 and the close of last year, the contractor installed a 48-inch pipeline down the entire length of the residential way between Forest and Elm Streets. 

The work on the northern edge of Stoneham, part of a long-planned and massive MWRA initiative in which a redundant water-delivery main is being installed between the Gillis Pumping Station at Spot Pond to pipeline infrastructure in Reading, was supposed to be entering the cleanup phase this coming summer.

However, when the MWRA began pressure-testing the Oak Street pipeline earlier this spring, it realized a number of couplings were failing.  At first, during a press release issued by the quasi-public agency in the end of April, the scope of the problem was described as limited to a singular location on North Street.

But within days, it became clear that the issue was far more expansive and would again require the closure of large sections of Oak Street.  

"We're not trying to make any excuses.  It should have been done right.  We knew we'd have some leaks, but nothing of this magnitude," said Laskey.  "We're getting close [to finishing up our repairs]. We have a couple more sections to test." 

The executive director later assured the town that the Oak Street contract will be completed by its September deadline.  The remaining work entails not only fixing any remaining leaks, but also restoring any damaged lawns and driveways on Oak Street. 

The contractor is also responsible for further repaving any other impacted roadways in the surrounding neighborhood by that September deadline. 

"If we had to park equipment on side streets, we will fully restored any damaged pavement," promised MWRA construction coordinator Jerry Sheehan.  "We plan in the next couple of weeks to do a walk-through of the neighborhood [to document those issues and finalize a repair schedule]." 

However, that cleanup, in which North Street and large sections of adjoining roadways will be returned to their original condition, does not include the restoration of Oak Street (see related story on A1).  

Though the town is responsible for making arrangements for the Oak Street repaving contract, Selectman Anthony Wilson asked Laskey to provide a comprehensive schedule outlining the timing of any outstanding repairs to homes and abutting roadways. 

He and Selectman George Seibold also sought assurances the MWRA will improve its construction process as it flips the construction project to the opposite end of Stoneham by Spot Pond. 

"Having to go back in there is an inconvenience to you, but a significant inconvenience for the residents.  Moving forward, are you making any changes to the southern side of the route?" asked Wilson. 

"We had a little discussion out there in the hallway about how this can't happen again," responded Laskey.  "[Albanese] has gone out and purchased an internal testing machine.  So they'll be testing any new pipeline [for possible leaks] from the inside as they move along."

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