Bangor attorney Peter Baldacci surveys the water damage in the basement of the offices of Treworgy & Baldacci in downtown Bangor. The basement was flooded with several feet of water Tuesday morning as a water main broke on Main Street. The basements of several businesses on Maine Street were flooded as City of Bangor crews were setting up to repair the problem. Credit: Gabor Degre

Two water mains broke in Bangor on Tuesday, flooding basements in several downtown businesses and leaving three buildings on a college campus without water.

The mains — one on Main Street between Broad and Water streets, and the other on Maine Avenue, near the intersection with Texas and Vermont avenues — are believed to have burst early Tuesday, before 7 a.m.

Water was shut off between Broad and Union streets for several hours. The basements of several businesses along the stretch of Main Street were flooded with at least 3 feet of water, including the bookstore Gerald Winters and Son, Herbal Tea and Tobacco and Nocturnem Draft Haus. Owners of some businesses, including Nocturnem, reported flooding levels as high as 6 feet.

“I’ve never had this before,” said Gail Hipsky, who owns the Standard Shoe Building that houses Nocturnem and the bookstore. Hipsky said she and her tenants had personal items and business inventory stored in the basement that were “all ruined,” including books and kegs and bottles of beer.

The Standard Shoe Building, which houses the bookstore and Nocturnem, appeared to have sustained the most damage from the burst main. At one point, at least six feet of water pooled in the bookstore and bar basements. Furnaces were also damaged in the flooding, knocking the heat out.

The other main break was reported on Maine Avenue, close to the roundabout that connects with Texas and Vermont avenues, near the University of Maine at Augusta campus and Army National Guard, officials said.

Three buildings on Maine Avenue, at the University of Maine Augusta campus, were without water Tuesday afternoon: the fitness center; Bangor Hall, an administrative building; and Caribou Hall, which houses a co-operative extension service, said Sheri Stevens, executive director of administrative services.

Water mains are large underground pipes that transfer water to a system of smaller pipes. In the colder months, broken water mains are often caused by low temperatures that freeze the ground, causing it to shift, Smith said. Ground shifting can be especially damaging to older infrastructure, he said.

[Bangor’s old water system leaves many holes to plug — on a 400-year cycle]

By Tuesday afternoon, the water on Main Street had been turned back on, but crews were still working to figure out the exact location of the broken main. Crews dug through the pavement during the day only to discover around 3:30 p.m. that the break was likely under the sidewalk in front of 46 Main St. The strip of pavement was filled in and crews, around dusk, were preparing to work through the night to dig up a portion of the sidewalk, Bangor Water District Inspector Pat Smith said.

Both breaks likely happened in the morning, said Smith. The break downtown happened probably between 5 and 7 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

Officials received a report of a third broken main on Birch Street, but said the report of water rushing out of a sewer grate was caused by snowfall runoff, Smith said.

A portion of the Main Street northbound lane remained closed to traffic around 4 p.m.

Since the fall, the Bangor Water District has repaired close to 30 broken water mains.

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