NE water main break displaces residents

Wash out: A 48-inch wa­ter main burst at the in­ter­sec­tion of Frank­ford and Tor­res­dale av­en­ues in Frank­ford on Dec. 23. JACK FIRNENO / FOR THE TIMES

As if it wer­en’t hec­tic, and wet enough on the day be­fore Christ­mas Eve.

On Dec. 23, a 48-inch wa­ter main burst at 8:50 a.m. at Frank­ford and Tor­res­dale av­en­ues in Frank­ford.  By the time the Phil­adelphia Wa­ter De­part­ment iden­ti­fied the ex­act loc­a­tion of the break and shut off wa­ter flow at around 9:30, three nearby busi­nesses in­clud­ing a day­care had been evac­u­ated, six res­id­ents were re­lo­cated, 38 schools were closed and 19 busi­nesses were without elec­tri­city.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials, the wa­ter de­part­ment re­acted as soon as its work­ers were aler­ted to a prob­lem with wa­ter pres­sure, and that there were no in­dic­a­tions be­fore the ac­tu­al break that something would go wrong.

“[The wa­ter de­part­ment] knew about it be­fore any­one else did,” May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence later that day.

The cast-iron pipe, built in 1907 and po­si­tioned 20 feet be­low the ground, channeled 150 mil­lion gal­lons of wa­ter to far-reach­ing neigh­bor­hoods from the Art Mu­seum area to Brides­burg to Lawn­crest.

“Age is ob­vi­ously a factor, even if the pipe was in per­fect con­di­tion,” Wa­ter De­part­ment Com­mis­sion­er Howard Neuk­rug said at the site that day.

The city’s wa­ter, fire and po­lice de­part­ments, along with the U.S. Coast Guard worked in the wind and rain to con­tain and man­age the three to five feet of wa­ter that flooded the in­ter­sec­tion.

Neuk­rug com­men­ded the “great crews” on site, re­cog­niz­ing all the de­part­ments work­ing to­geth­er. As the cleanup con­tin­ues, the next step, he said, would be for in­spect­ors and ad­justers to work with loc­al busi­nesses to as­sess dam­age.

One loc­al busi­ness, Nana’s Day­care, is al­most dir­ectly on top of the dam­aged pipe.

“We heard an ex­plo­sion in the middle of the street, and then wa­ter rising really fast and really high,” said Lisa Taylor, co­ordin­at­or for Nana’s Day­care.

Taylor said the 14 staff mem­bers quickly evac­u­ated 44 chil­dren to the former North­east Cath­ol­ic High School across the street and later to an­oth­er day­care loc­a­tion nearby.

“My staff was great. The kids didn’t even know what was go­ing on,” Taylor said. ••

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