Massive water main break floods Frankford

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December 23, 2013 8:19:20 PM PST
A massive water main break on Monday flooded part of the Frankford section of Philadelphia, forcing school closures and disruptions at a hospital and day care centers.

A 48-inch main, attached to a 60-inch transmission line, ruptured just before 9:00 a.m. in the area of Frankford and Torresdale avenues.

The water department computers put out the first alert.

The rupture acted like a plug being pulled out of a bath tub, and all of the main transmission lines started feeding into the area of the break, causing an incredible gush of water.

The system indicated it was losing water at the rate of a 150,000,000 gallons a day.

By 11:30 a.m., the break was under control enough for the city to bring in heavy equipment to start repair work.

John DiGiulio of the Philadelphia Water Department explained, "We're working a mile, two miles away to reduce the flow to this intersection so that we can eventually get closer and reduce that, that way the water will [recede] and we'll be able to identify exactly where this is broken."

Homes and businesses in eight zip codes, as far away as Center City, were experiencing low water pressure.

"It's a major pipe, provides water for large parts of the city of Philadelphia," Howard Neukrug of the Philadelphia Water Department said.

Officials said that water pressure was back to normal by Monday afternoon.

"We have three 60 inch pipes, one 48 inch that comes off of them, took us about 20 to 30 minutes to identify where and start closing the valves," Neukrug said.

The Philadelphia School District dismissed more than 30 schools early on Monday at 11:30 a.m. The list of schools that were impacted were listed on the district's website.

In addition, St. Christopher's Hospital closed their outpatient center and rescheduled some elective surgeries due to the main break. However, normal operations resumed around 3:00 p.m.

41 children were evacuated early on from Nanna's Little Educators Day Care 1 and 2, and relocated to Nanna's Little Educators Day Care 3, located at 4350 H Street. Parents can pick up the H Street location as soon as possible. The contact number for Little Nanna's Day Care 3 is 215-288-5301.

Six homes were temporarily evacuated.

SEPTA says bus route 5 is being detoured. For detour information visit the System Status section of SEPTA's website.

The pipe involved dates back to 1907. It is made of cast iron which can become brittle with age. At this point, investigators don't know what caused the rupture.

A strong odor of gasoline permeated the area. The fire department says that came from the gas tanks of cars submerged in the water. They say the leak did not leave any environmental hazards.

The next few weeks will be a hassle for area residents.

"This is a very, very busy area. With a main like this and the depth of it and the work that the water department and L&I have to do, the intersection will be out for some time," Mayor Michael Nutter said.

The city has already had insurance adjusters going through the neighborhood assessing damage. L&I is waiting for the cleanup to progress a little further before they can get in to assess the damaged buildings for safety hazards.


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