Damaged streets and businesses after Center City water main break

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
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Watch the report from Sarah Bloomquist on Action News at 5 p.m. on July 3, 2018.

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- Many Center City residents awoke Tuesday to millions of gallons of water flowing down typically busy streets, with a huge water main burst to blame.

What's left now is a muddy mess, a major inconvenience, and damage to a number of city blocks.

The sounds of a massive cleanup effort underway echoed through the streets of Center City Tuesday - a bustling area of restaurants and shops known to many as Midtown Village.

Cracked asphalt, crumbled concrete, mud and water. At the intersection of Juniper and Sansom streets lies a mess, and a headache for crews who have to now perform tedious work excavating while trying to avoid the other unilateral lines and pipes mixed in underground.

"It's a two-fold focus. Getting properties back to where they need to be so they can be occupied. Businesses back in business. And the other part is to address the immediate issue of the break and figuring out, strategizing how we're going to proceed with the repair," said Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Debra McCarty.

It was at Juniper and Sansom streets where a 48-inch transmission main broke around 4 a.m. in the morning.

An estimated 14-15 million gallons of water gushed into the streets. It took about three hours to shut down the water main. But by then a tidal wave of mud, water and debris had rushed into nearby basements.

The Philadelphia Water Department says the intersection is likely to remain closed for weeks.

At the moment, crews are mostly concentrating on cleaning up all the mud and debris left behind.

Some of the businesses in the area, many of them restaurants, are looking at weeks before they can reopen.

"All the restaurants that need to get back open, we are going to do our best to work with everyone quickly and get everything taken care of to do that," said Water Department spokesman John DiGiulio.

General Manager Casey Snodgrass took us into the basement of the Brickwall Tavern, which opened just a month ago.

"The safe was flipped over on its side. There was about a foot of water levels marked on all the boxes in the basement for storage," Snodgrass said. "Looks like it all came crashing through and then receded pretty fast."

The owner of nearby TIME bar and restaurant, Jason Evenchick, expects his cleanup to take weeks.

"We have about three walk in boxes where we keep food or verge or beer and wine. They are all obviously totally submerged," Evenchick said. "All our refrigeration, all our food, food prep, dry storage - it's pretty much a total loss in the basement."

Holiday Inn was among the businesses that lost power. One hotel guest told us he had a long morning moving luggage down the stairs.

"16 floors going up then 16 floors going down with all the luggage for five. So that will be my work out for the day, the week, the month," said Fredrick Campau of Montreal.

The Philadelphia Water Department has claims adjusters on site. They're asking anyone impacted to document the damage to be eligible for assistance.

They will have a tent at 13th and Sansom on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to answer any questions.

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