Snow, ice making for tough cleanup from water main break

PHILADELPHIA - February 20, 2014

The 6-inch main under the 3000 block of Livingston Street ruptured Wednesday, sending water into the basements of a number of homes.

The break sent water under the roadway, enough to collapse the road and flood basements forcing the evacuation of 13 homes.

On top of that, crews had to dig through very thick ice to get to the problem.

Homeowners are wondering what was going to happen with their properties.

"We looked in our basement and it was filled; covered like if someone turned a fire hydrant on," said Kathleen McGovern. "It just coming through my walls. My basement was filled within minutes."

"I ran down the stairs and tried to turn off the circuit breaker, but by then the water was coming too fast. I didn't want to touch it and get electrocuted," said George Cintron.

Displaced residents say they believe the water main broke shortly after noon. They say they kept calling the Philadelphia Water Department but no one arrived.

Finally, firefighters arrived and began evacuating homes.

"I didn't know what to do. I was scared. I was discouraged. My kids were just coming home from school. I was so nervous," said McGovern.

"I'm just mad it took so long," said Mark Reynolds. "The fire department had to come out and then water department just came in the last 20 minutes."

Mark Reynolds has a sump pump. He thinks the damage to his home is minimal. Others are not as fortunate and anxious to assess the damage.

"We are going to have to find a way to sleep somewhere tonight," said Cintron.

Crews had to jackhammer the asphalt and ice to get to the water line. They quickly discovered that it was not only a water problems but a natural gas line as well.

Residents are beginning to get back into their homes to begin the cleanup. For those still displaced, they are receiving assistance from The Red Cross.

A Philadelphia Water Department spokesperson says the department did not get calls from residents until 3:30 p.m., while residents say they began calling at noon.

Residents are furious with the Philadelphia Water Department for what they call a slow response.

They claim they made repeated calls beginning at 12:30 p.m., but the department didn't show up until after 3:00 p.m.

"I'm really mad," said Emil Pajkert. "They should have acted faster. If people keep on calling that means something is going on."

"These property owners probably think it was not adequate, but we can't have the same level of response every time. We have to do a little diagnostics before we assign the proper crew," said Debra McCarty.

Debra McCarty is the Deputy Commissioner of the Water Department. She says at last check a dozen homes suffered water damage.

The department says they will reimburse residents, but proper protocol was followed.

"We responded as the protocol, and there are lots of breaks throughout the city. There are lot of calls we get about water in the basement, and it doesn't end up being this serious," said McCarty.

There is no report on how long the repairs will take.

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