HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — An emergency meeting was held in Hoboken Monday after a recent spike in water main breaks.

Two this weekend were part of over a dozen that have disrupted the Hudson County city this summer. Mayor Ravinder Bhalla has laid the blame on SUEZ Water, but the company is on the defense.

To find out what’s behind the recent spike, Mayor Bhalla summonsed an emergency meeting with the general manager for SUEZ’s environmental services, Christopher Riat. Bhalla says a recent project to upgrade meters that calibrate the city’s water use is to blame.

Riat says he doesn’t see a direct correlation.

“It could be the heat that we’ve had, the usage that we’ve had,” he told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner in an exclusive interview. “There are a number of factors that lead to it.”

One of those factors, Riat says, are the pipes in the mile-square city. Some of them date back to the 1800s, and crews even discovered a few wooden ones during recent excavation work.

The mayor wouldn’t make himself available for an interview with CBS2 on Monday. When asked whether the city has looked into whether construction could be a factor in the recent spate of breaks, spokesperson Santiago Melli-Huber said “They also said it’s possible that the water meter pit project is related to all these breaks.”

Experts say the weather could have put stress on the pipes.

“We’ve had a very rainy spring and summer, we’ve had a lot of flooding here already,” urban resilience expert Alexander Mirescu said. “Clearly there needs to be some upgrading and retrofitting on the existing system.”

For now, the city says it’s upgrading its pipes on Washington Street and is exploring all of its options. Whichever one will lead to a long term solution remains unclear.

SUEZ says under the current contract, it can not perform preventative work. Mayor Bhalla says he’s planning to make an announcement on plans for moving forward Tuesday morning.


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