Living on the Edge (of the aqueduct)

The Hultman Aqueduct. A familiar site in Framingham and in other towns. The Hultman was intended to be one of two pressure tunnel aqueducts bringing water from Quabbin to Boston when it was completed in 1940. They ran out of money for the second tunnel during WWII, and never had enough money to finish it. For 60 years or so, the 18 mile Hultman aqueduct was the sole supplier of Boston's water.

Hultman Aqueduct

I am one of many people that live adjacent to the Hultman Aqueduct. I happen to live near a portion of the aqueduct that has a very steep slope. (notice the Pine Plantation on the south side of the aqueduct)

aquaduct up

If you run down the hill, it's hard to stop yourself. If you walk up the hill, you will get winded. Kids were sledding down the hill this past winter.

aquaduct down

For at least 10 or 15 years, it has been known that there are leaks in the Hultman Aqueduct. If the leaks led to the complete failure of the water supply system for Boston and other MWRA communities (such as Framingham), it would have been a nightmare of unimaginable scope. Attempts to fix the worst leaks without a second tunnel in place were nerve-wracking and not entirely successful.

hultman fxing leaks

In 2003, a new underground tunnel was completed under the Hultman. The plan had always been to close the Hultman for repair and rehabilitation after the second tunnel was online, and the Hultman was closed for repairs in 2004. I don't know if they left water in the tunnel when it was closed. Without water inside, the tunnel might collapse, for one thing. A project to locate all the leaks was stated in 2005. Infrared cameras and ground penetrating radar were tools used to identify the location of the leaks. I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that the tunnel would probably have to contain water to use such tools effectively. (The planted Red Pines are seen here, as well.)

Infrared searches for leaks

This survey identified 18 Major leaks. More than 20 smaller leaks were found. as well. Portions of the Hultman with severe leaks were then dug up and tested for structural integrity.

aqueduct exposed

I located a map of the most severe leaks in Framingham on the web. I noticed that a major leak is on the crest of the hill above my house. This is the hill that pours water into my house and yard, although that would happen whether the aqueduct leaked or not. Obviously, a whole lot of other people are in close proximity to a major leak, as well. What does that mean to you?

leaks framingham hultman

Fixing the Hultman is scheduled to begin soon, if it hasn't already. Money for the project is allocated in the 2009 Massachusetts budget. People living near the Hultman aqueduct are accustomed to a quiet, "nature preserve" like atmosphere. I suspect that quiet atmosphere will soon be replaced by a full blown construction zone pretty soon. (note Red Pines in photo)

hultman repairs

Say it ain't so! Please! Tell me that I'm mistaken. Tell me that these repairs have already been completed in Framingham! I don't want this!


  1. You want repairs to not take place and in a few years if they need to use the aqueduct for back-up water supply the tunnel is unstable to do so and millions could end up without clean drinking water just for a few months more of peace and serenity in your backyard? If they don't do repairs now, it'll take a much bigger operation to do major repairs later.

  2. Hello -- the second and third photos above of the steep hill... is this the section located parallel to Belknap between Major Hale and Millwood?

  3. bigsam27 - very close to that location, but more towards Grove St.

  4. i know the place very well - i grew up in that neighborhood in the 70s. great times exploring the aqueduct and also Callahan State Park. and, yes, the sledding was great! thanks for the pictures, it brought back a LOT of memories :)

  5. Is it legal to walk on the acqueduct,? It would make for a great hiking path...in framingham

  6. There is a lovely trail that meanders around the Sudbury Reservoir, but for the most part, walking around the Framingham Reservoirs is not legal. Why that should be the case has more to do with money than anything else. The state owns about ten feet of land adjacent to parts of the reservoirs, and other parts are actually private property. Go figure!


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