BARRE – A system-wide boil water notice will remain in effect through at least early Thursday afternoon, following a Tuesday morning water main break that left some residents without water for several hours and forced the early dismissal of Barre City Elementary and Middle School.

City officials said a 12-inch high-pressure line on Prospect Street fractured just below the Allen Street intersection at 7:30 a.m., prompting a temporary road closure and cutting off water to residents in the Fairview and Allen street area. It also interrupted service to the pre-K-8 school even as students were arriving for what was to be their last day of classes before a state-ordered closure linked COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Students were sent home from BCEMS at 8:45 a.m., though those that couldn’t be picked up from their bus stops on short notice were brought back to the school for pick up.

The break coincided with automatic sprinkler system testing at a property in downtown Barre, though it is unclear whether the latter caused the former.

What is clear is that when the break occurred water pressure dropped across the system, which serves all of Barre and parts of Barre Town.

That, officials said, triggered the need to issue a system-wide boil water notice that will remain in place until samples pass the requisite testing regimen and are deemed safe.

While the water is suitable for hand washing, it might not be safe for consumption and could pose a significant health risk – particularly for infants, the elderly and those with severely compromised immune systems.

Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and preparing food until the notice is lifted.

In order for that to happen five samples of water collected at different locations on successive days must be tested at a laboratory and cleared.

The first five samples were collected on Tuesday afternoon and a second batch will be collected today. Assuming test shows both sets of samples are bacteria-free the boil water notice could be lifted some time Thursday afternoon. If any of the samples fails, the notice will remain in affect and the testing will continue.

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