Burst pipe displaces Wauregan Apartments tenants in Norwich

Norwich — A sixth-floor sprinkler pipe burst in the Wauregan Apartments Thursday evening, affecting 13 apartments, displacing tenants in four or five units and flooding the second-floor ballroom, city building and fire officials said.

The call came in at 4:35 p.m. Lower Broadway was closed from Union Square to Main Street for about an hour to accommodate fire and Norwich Public Utilities vehicles.

The building has a history of sprinkler system breaks over the past decade, and developer Becker & Becker Associates and the manufacturer had fought legal battles over the issue. Thursday's break was the first since Sept. 27, 2013. An official from property manager WinnResidential declined to comment Thursday night.

City Director of Inspections James Troeger said a section of plastic sprinkler pipe that had been repaired several years ago burst and flooded all six floors beneath it. Thirteen apartments, the ballroom floor and hallway carpeting were soaked, Troeger said. Electricity had to be turned off in those apartments until they could be inspected. Each apartment has its own electrical service, making it possible to shut off power to individual units.

Norwich fire Battalion Chief Gregory Despathy said at 5:45 p.m. that the leak had been contained and inspectors started reviewing each unit. Five units were given the quick OK to be occupied, and Troeger said another three or four could be reopened later Thursday, leaving about four or five units with water in electrical components that would not be allowed to reopen until certified by a licensed electrician.

"If there's any doubt that electrical wiring might be wet, we'll wait for clearance from an electrician," Troeger said. 

Because the building's alarm system was shut down Thursday night, Despathy ordered WinnResidential to post an overnight fire watch — a staff person who would spend the night patrolling each floor, ready to alert the fire department if problems occur.

Despathy said later Thursday night that one person, in the apartment where the break occurred, suffered a minor injury.

The fire department turned the building over to the property management company at 8:23 p.m., Despathy said, and six apartments still were closed at that time. Crews were working to open at least some of them Thursday night.

The cause of the break was not immediately known.

c.bessette@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version corrects the spelling of property manager WinnResidential.

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