Geyser finally shut off hours after huge water main break in Northeast Philadelphia

NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Utility crews have finally managed to shut off the water to a ruptured main that sent tens of thousands of gallons of water shooting more than 100 feet into the air for more than 12 hours in Northeast Philadelphia.

The mishap left behind a wintry landscape, with ice coating the trees and a storage tank on the property.

The towering geyser gushed for so long because crews had to pull out last night when it became too dangerous.

It happened around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The leak was caused by a blown out fire connection valve in a small building next to a large storage tank.

Water department crews had to break through a fence and then cut through heavy underbrush to get to the source.

They battled freezing temperatures and a furious fountain of water.

Ice-coated tree limbs started crashing to the ground. One worker got into trouble and had to be rescued.

He was taken to the hospital, where he was treated then released Thursday morning.

At that point things got too dangerous.

The crews returned around 6:00 a.m. Thursday. It took them another two hours to finally get the water shut off.

They had to close valves on what's called a fire loop, some of them as far as a mile away.

But, that left fire hydrants running dry. Large commercial complexes, like a shopping center on Grant Avenue, were unprotected for hours.

Firefighters would have had to truck in water if there had been a fire.

However, by noon the blown out valve was replaced and they were able to re-pressurize the lines leading to the hydrants.

The Philadelphia Water Department said it's dealing with numerous ruptures around the city because of the cold weather.

This was the most spectacular of them, but it was only one of seven water line breaks in the city overnight.

There were eight the night before.

Most breaks take 10 to 12 hours to fix, and you can expect more of them whenever there's a cold snap like we've had over the past couple of weeks.

The water department has put its repair crews on 12 hour shifts for the winter months as they race from one break to the next.

The pipe that burst Wednesday night doesn't belong to the city.

It's a private line, but the water department had to get involved because it was city water gushing out of here for more than a dozen hours.

They're still trying to determine who actually owns the property.
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