A few years ago (2010) there was a failure of a massive MWRA water main in Weston that sent hundreds of millions of gallons gushing into the Charles River and resulted in an emergency boil-your-water order for residents.
Apparently that wasn’t the first time there’s been a massive failure of a water main in that general neighborhood. Here’s a story of the Cochituate Aqueduct letting go in Lower Falls in 1859. (Thanks go to Maureen Reilly-Meagher for the info)
On the 29th of March last, the aqueduct at its connection with the pipes crossing Charles River, on the westerly side in Needham, gave way early in the morning, and the great volume of water which was passing through the same, in a very short time produced the most destructive havoc upon the prem- ises, — carrying pipes, gravel, brick and stone masonry and other materials away, and precipitating them into Charles River, choking up its current, and caus- ing it to overflow its banks and throw back water upon the meadows and mills above. The sight of this devastating outbreak was truly appalling. A young man, son of Mr. Reuben Ware, living near at hand, had the presence of mind to mount and ride with all speed to the Lake to apprise Mr. Knowlton of the breach ; and the water was instantly turned off, so that in probably two hours from its occurrence the water ceased to flow injuriously at the breach. This prompt and highly meritorious act of young Mr. Ware, by which further incalculable injury was seasonably pre- vented, was deemed worthy of special notice by this Board, and w^as rewarded by them by the gift of a gold watch, of Waltham manufacture, and a suitable gold chain. By this untoward occurrence the stone gate-house and near 100 feet of the brick conduit were carried away, and with several of the connecting pipes, were precipitated into the river to the distance of from 75 to 150 feet. What was the cause of this occurrence is only matter of conjecture, as all the traces of weakness and of failure were entirely obliterated in the accom- panying ruin.
Though the gap was truly frightful, and the work of repair was impeded by a violent rain storm, yet the work was commenced and prosecuted with the utmost vigor, and by as many men as could work to advantage, both by day and by night. It was by no means an easy task to find in a village like that the shelter and the food necessary for the comfort and supply of so many workmen ; and it became necessary to send many into the city at night, and to return there in the morn- ing. It providentially came to pass that we had on hand a stock of both 36 and 30-inch pipes, sufficient to connect the old pipes in the valley with the new gate- house, now to be constructed far inward from its former position. Had this not been the case, it is quite prob- lematical how Ions; the breach would have remained open before new pipes could have been cast and in- serted. It seems as if great suffering must have occurred in such circumstances. Such was the speed, activity, skill and strength applied to this work, that on Saturday evening, April 2d, (within five days and four nights,) connection was made through one of the pipes, and on the following night through another, and on the following Thursday through the last.
There's plenty more to read here