New London's very close call

The Finizio administration, Public Works Department, Veolia water company, and other support staff deserve credit for their quick and well-coordinated work in avoiding a disaster that could have left sections of New London and Waterford without water service for a prolonged period.

As importantly, the administration took proactive steps to prepare for a worst-case scenario. When operators of the city's water system realized Thursday morning that a massive leak somewhere in the system was losing water faster than it could be replenished, it raised the threat that the system could, within hours, be a void of empty pipes.

Facing that potential, Mayor Daryl Justin Finzio's office contacted state authorities who shipped bottled water and MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) to the city in the event taps did go dry. Locally, the mayor declared a State of Emergency, opened an Emergency Operations Center and issued orders that citizens avoid all nonessential water use.

It was the decisive action citizens expected when, a few years ago, they placed executive control in the hands of a directly elected mayor.

Fortunately, things turned out well. Utility workers detected the leak in a swampy section of Bates Woods Park in time to isolate and contain it before the problem turned into a disaster. Water was lost for a time at the public housing high-rise at 202 Colman St., but housing and emergency relief workers were ready with bottled water and other assistance.

If there is one critique of the mayor, it is that his initial statement the morning of the event - warning of the potential "that sections of the city will lose water for up to several days" - was unnecessarily alarmist. While true, it is questionable whether it served a good purpose to emphasize this dire scenario from the start.

It is a challenge, certainly, to calm and reassure the populace while also informing them of a potential emergency, yet that is what a leader must do. A warning of a serious break in the system, and the need to conserve water, could have sufficed until the city had a better assessment.

However, that is a small thing. On balance, the administration handled the situation well.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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