Boston area still on drinking water boil order

BOSTON Sun May 2, 2010 9:37pm EDT

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BOSTON (Reuters) - About two million Boston-area residents and hundreds of businesses will remain under a water-boil order heading into the workweek after a huge water pipe break on Saturday.

Officials said the water main that ruptured on Saturday morning could be fixed as soon as late on Sunday, but gave no firm timetable for drinkable water to be flowing through the area's pipes again.

"The extent of the damage is not as great as we feared," Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick said at a media conference. "It does look like we're going to be able to get through this sooner than we thought. In days, not weeks."

The state Attorney General, Martha Coakley, is reviewing "anecdotal reports" of possible price gouging by stores selling bottled water during the crisis.

"If we discover that businesses are engaging in price gouging, we will take appropriate legal action," Coakley said in a statement.

Boston and more than two dozen surrounding communities were effected by the burst pipe in the town of Weston about 15 miles from downtown Boston.

Authorities got word to residents about the boil order through methods such as reverse 911 calls and riding through neighborhoods with bullhorns. The news also spread by new media such as Facebook and Twitter postings.

Backup water was quickly obtained by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. The untreated water can be used for bathing, flushing and fire protection.

The news prompted a run on area grocery stores, which were quickly stripped of drinking water supplies. Major grocery chains are working with suppliers to get more water to their stores.

The MWRA issued extensive emergency guidelines for restaurants and other establishments involved in food preparation, including those serving hospitals and nursing homes.

Local media reported that officials shut down every restaurant in the town of Lexington on Saturday night. In other towns, restaurants were allowed to stay open or decide for themselves.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny)

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