Thursday, February 3, 2022

The Saga of the Polypig: The Final Chapter

Last summer, a polypig got stuck in the water main between the Churchtown reservoir and the water treatment plant in Hudson, causing a water emergency in the city. Efforts at the time managed to restore water flow, but today, Rob Perry, superintendent of Public Works, reports the final chapter in the story. His report, which recounts the entire saga of the polypig, follows:
In June, the Hudson Water Department undertook annual pipe cleaning of the raw water transmission main that brings water from the Churchtown reservoir to the City of Hudson Water Treatment Plant. During this operation, something unprecedented happened: the polypog did not surface in its designated location in Claverack. Several attempts to redirect flow were made to move the polypig toward its intended destination but to no avail.
The Water Department enlisted the aid of the Town of Greenport to use their camera to inspect the water main. Additionally, the Water Department excavated an alternate location to conduct further investigation. A private contractor with greater camera capabilities was also employed. None of these attempts either produced the polypig or gave us any indication of where it could be.
Over the next two days, the Water Department utilized "swabs" and tracking devices to either capture the polypig or at least identify its location. Although none of these actions alone produced the desired outcome, collectively they did identify the only logical place the polypig could be: lodged in a 16" x 16" "T" at the Claverack pump station. As tank level in the finished water tank was approaching dangerously low levels, the search for the polypig was suspended and raw water flow was restored to the treatment plant.
The requisite parts were ordered to replace the pipe and fittings at the "T," however global supply chain constraints delayed delivery of some components until August and others until December 2021.
It was our intention to excavate, remove the "T" (with polypig), replace with a new "T," gate valve, and fittings in Spring 2022. However, extreme cold temperatures have resulted in municipal and private infrastructure failures, which in turn have increased demand. Given the partial obstruction of the transmission main by the polypig, it was a challenge to produce additional volume.
With all requisite components on hand and long-term forecast of very cold weather to continue, the decision was made to excavate now.
Commencing this past Monday and continuing for three days, the Water Department, with a private contractor, excavated the location of the existing "T" over 20' below ground elevation at the Claverack pump station.
With all replacement pieces on site and preassembled, the water plant was taken offline and the "T" was removed.
The polypig is visible protruding from a space between the "T" and the old valve.
With the polypig and damaged components removed, the replacement pieces underwent final assembly and were installed.
Raw water flow was restored to the plant shortly after, and normal operations resumed Thursday afternoon.
From an operational perspective, this project is complete. All that remains is site restoration and final cleanup.


  1. Question re new projects. These projects go before the Zoning Board and Planning Board, prior to the IDA? Correct?

  2. Very nice work. Like the red valve.

  3. In the 2019 Natural Resource and Open Space Inventory prepared for Hudson by the Conservation Advisory Council, there is this passage:

    "Hudson has an emergency water supply at the former Lone Star Quarry in Greenport, which stores over 1 million gallons. The quarry is located
    on a 14-acre parcel within a 395-acre tract that the City acquired in the 1960s, which is currently under a lease-purchase contract with a mining company. The company will take ownership of the larger tract in 2042, with the 14-acre quarry parcel remaining City property. The company is obligated to maintain the quality of the water, even after that time. If the DOH [Department of Health] determines that the backup water supply is no longer drinkable, or is for any reason unavailable, the mining company must provide a substitute backup water supply that is equal or superior in quality or quantity to the existing backup reservoir. It is, however, unclear what that alternative backup supply might be."

    The "company" referred to is Colarusso, whose commitment to Hudson's needs are doubtful. When we wrote that passage, we were right to wonder whether a source and plan for accessing a substitute backup water supply existed, the provision of which would be Colarusso's responsibility.

    What we did not think about at the time was how, in a situation like the one that happened last summer when our regular water supply was interrupted, the City would get access to our existing backup supply of 1 million gallons in the Lone Star Quarry. A garden hose? A bucket brigade?

    This is a chilling example not only of the fragility of a vital piece of infrastructure, but also of our lack of preparedness for when that infrastructure is inevitable.

    I'm getting thirsty.

    1. Planning ahead, and creating back up options, is task done well by our forefathers but perhaps badly by our contemporaries.

      In the late 1960s, there was a pandemic in New York City that i lived through. No equipment or medications were out of stock, the hospitals were managed well enough to handle the sick with out complaint, and there was no mass shutdown of the daily routine.

      How did they do it ? Higher standards of performance, perhaps, and less complaining. Doctors and medical staff in those days would have been too embarressed to run out of anything- they were well trained adults.

      life is only as fragile as you make it.

  4. thank you Carole for the story on the amazing reservoir that we know so little about.

    If one takes a drive out that way, one sees a system of engineering that was a feat in its time.

    I think that the DPW did an amazing job by digging in during the severest cold in the winter. Great job.

  5. The polypog is a nefarious Russian plot to monitor the internal affairs of Hudson.