South Phila. water main break brings gas, electric woes

July 23, 2012 8:26:04 PM PDT
The cleanup continues at the scene of a massive water main break in South Philadelphia.

At 21st and Bainbridge, a large sinkhole opened up and caused a gas leak Monday morning. Several underground electrical lines were also damaged.

By Monday night, water department workers secured the area around the sinkhole caused by Sunday night's water main break which sent thousands of gallons of water gushing into the streets.

The awe of it receded quickly once more than 40 evacuated residents got back into their homes and found the damage, mostly in their basements.

"It used to flood with maybe a foot of water during hurricanes," said resident Phil Frank. "It's obviously nothing like this. So we had things off of the floor, but this water just came so high it totaled everything."

Frank and Cliff Eyler woke up to find three feet of water in the streets and even more in their cellar.

"I looked out and there was a river running down 21st Street," said Eyler. "It was so bad I immediately went into our basement and there was about 5 feet of water in the basement."

The break caused damage to at least 100 homes.

As residents spent the day pumping out water and cleaning up, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) made repairs to the 100-year-old, 4-foot-wide water main.

"Water main breaks like these, you may never know," said PWD's John DiGiulio. "Sometimes they may have a lifespan and this one may have reached its useful lifespan."

On Monday morning, falling asphalt from the cave-in broke a gas line so almost 30 homes are without gas service.

The colossal mess prompted questions about the city's aging 3,000 mile sewer network

"Sometimes the unseen, if we don't take care of it, creates some pretty significant problems and then all of a sudden we do see," Myor Michael Nutter said "But we see it in a way we don't want to experience."

Mayor Nutter says the city is constantly trying to update the underground network so things like this won't happen.

"Certainly with additional resources we would be able to do more in the course of our annual inspections and replacement program," said Nutter.

Resident Natlie Shchereit, whose basement was flooded as a result of the main break, told Action News, "This kind of damage, this is not like a little accident. [The] amount of money we pay to the city, the city should take better care of its infrastructure."

Action News has learned the massive undertaking to repair the main and the roadway could take a month.

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