News Feature | July 10, 2018

Sinkhole, Power Outages, Flooding: Philly Water Main Wreaks Havoc

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

philly reg new

It will take months to repair the fallout from a broken water main in Philadelphia’s Center City that poured 15 million gallons of water into city streets.

After a 48-inch transmission water main ruptured on July 3, a sinkhole opened up, power went down for hundreds of people, and numerous basements were flooded, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The flooding spread several blocks in all directions for about three hours, NBC 10 Philadelphia reported.

In the aftermath, dozens of officials have been on scene, including crews from the Water and Streets Departments, Philadelphia Gas Works, PECO, the Office of Emergency Management, and Verizon, The Inquirer reported. There were also reps from Veolia, “operators of Center City’s steam loop, whose pipes run below the same streets,” the report said.

“There is no estimate yet as to the cost of damage caused by the water, but Water Commissioner Debra McCarty said about 30 to 40 properties were affected. Owners who sustained damage can file a claim, but the city’s liability is limited to $500,000 for the entire incident, as residents of a Southwest Center City neighborhood found out after their basements were flooded when a 48-inch main broke at 21st and Bainbridge Streets in 2012,” the report continued.

Metro reported that the water main will be removed and tested to understand what prompted the sudden rupture. “There is also no word on how much the break will end up costing, but a similar 2012 water main break resulted in $1.7 million in claims,” the report said.

The Philly water main break is a sign of the infrastructure crisis playing out in cities and municipalities across the country. Crumbling infrastructure is a top concern for water utilities.

According to a report by the American Water Work Association, “restoring existing water systems as they reach the end of their useful lives and expanding them to serve a growing population will cost at least $1 trillion over the next [couple decades], if we are to maintain current levels of water service.”

Image credit: "philadelphia skyline," r’lyeh imaging © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/