Aged pipes, extreme heat mean more water main breaks in Philly

    Two water main breakages in a week? Just the beginning, says Rina Cutler, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for transportation and utilities.

    The first pipe to fail, prompting the evacuation of 40 people last Sunday night, was installed in 1917.

    The latest, which created a sinkhole in a Northeast Philly street, was constructed in 1886.

    “I’d say we got our money’s worth,” says Cutler.

    A combination of pressures

    Now, Cutler attributes to the rupturing of the water mains to a combination of age and the extreme heat. Heat puts extra pressure on most infrastructure, she says. The breakages come as a reminder of a failure to build the momentum to reinvest on a national scale.

    “We’ve postponed it and pushed it off and not dealt with it for as long as we could,” Cutler said Monday. “I think we’re reaching a point here where we’re not going to be able to do that much longer.”

    Funding is far short of what’s needed to deal with the scale of the problem, she said.

    She says policymakers at the local and national levels have had ongoing conversations but also lays blame at their door.

    “If the American public, as shown in surveys and polls, doesn’t want to pay money for it, then we have done a really poor job at communicating to them that this is both a huge public safety issue and a huge issue for jobs and the economy,” Cutler said.

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