Repair work continues after Bakers Centre flooded with 13m gallons of water [updated]

Philadelphia Water Department crews remained at the months-old Bakers Centre shopping center on Monday investigating a major water-main break that flooded the East Falls location early Saturday morning.

PWD spokesman John DiGiulio told NewsWorks that a 48-inch main broke around 4:30 a.m. Saturday, sending an estimated 13 million gallons of water into the parking lot there.

That volume was greater than other water-main breaks as the one that caved in a portion of the parking lot was a transmission main that fed other smaller pipes in the area.

Though the shopping center is new development that opened just last summer, DiGiulio said the water main itself was installed in 1895.

Crews have been at the scene since early Saturday, but have not yet been able to pinpoint where exactly the main broke.

They were still clearing debris in the hopes of getting a visual of the damage Sunday night, he said.

Numerous stores were damaged, and employees of the Brown’s ShopRite there were evacuated by raft, according to reports.

Updates from the scene

As PWD crews excavated a 20-foot deep hole at the site’s southeast corner on Monday morning, tenants continued working towards normalcy.

Both the ShopRite and Ross Dress for Less locations were open. Fans and clean-up equipment were visibile inside a yet-to-open state store and a neighboring Got The Look fashion location.

The store that seemingly suffered the most damage from the water-main break was Hair Buzz, which just opened last month.

There, owner Andy Kim noted that he got a call from his alarm company around 4:30 a.m. Saturday. The water rushing downhill towards his store in the parking lot was making the front doors shake to the point that it activated their alarms.

Kim, who plans to reopen his store at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, said when he arrived shortly thereafter, he waded through knee-high waters outside. Inside the 1,200 square-foot store was a wall-to-wall ankle-high coating of water.

“Dirty water everywhere. It was just terrible,” Kim told NewsWorks on Monday, sharing that the entire floor has to be replaced.

As for estimated damages and lost merchandise, he noted that it was “a lot. I can’t even figure it out right now.”

Offering context

DiGiulio was out at the scene late Monday morning as well.

He said the main, which runs east to west, moves some 200 million gallons of water a day. While 13 million gallons is a hefty loss, an estimated 22 million was involved in December’s break at Frankford and Torresdale avenues.

The timing of the break made it so most people who may have been affected by low-pressure as a result wouldn’t have noticed it. As such, PWD didn’t get any residential service-problem calls directly tied to Saturday’s incident.

“Repairs will take a while,” he said, standing near the 80-foot by 60-foot hole in the parking lot where crews worked to get to the bottom of the break. “Not a week. Not a month.”

He noted that “this is our break season,” helping explain the uptick in main-break calls PWD has been experiencing lately. Sections of the main will be sent to forensic investigators to determine the cause of the break, which is still unknown.

“We’ve been so busy that there are occasions where our crews have to go back the next day to finish,” he said. “This is not the only thing that happened on Saturday, either.”

The amount of water which flooded Bakers Square would nearly fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

A gallery of photos from the scene will be posted Monday afternoon.


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