Water main breaks keep Philly workers scrambling

Mud and ice are cleared from the road during cleanup after a water main break last week in Northeast Philadelphia. City workers are dealing with about 20 water main breaks a day, officials say.

Mud and ice are cleared from the road during cleanup after a water main break last week in Northeast Philadelphia. City workers are dealing with about 20 water main breaks a day, officials say. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

The city of Philadelphia has been dealing with a rash of broken water mains. And with temperatures expected to rise into the 50s by Friday, more gushers from underground are expected.

An average of 20 mains are breaking daily, according to John DiGiulio with the city water department.

“The ground is so frozen right now that there possibly are additional broken mains under the ground that haven’t surfaced yet,” he said. “So the water could be running underground without reaching the street level, and we don’t see it.”

Crews are working double shifts to fix all the breaks as quickly as possible.

“A 16-hour shift doesn’t mean you actually finish in 16 hours,” DiGiulio said. “So if you are repairing multiple water main breaks in a day, it takes eight to 10 hours to repair each one. In this condition, it takes a little bit longer.”

The issue isn’t the air temperature, DiGiulio said. It’s the difference between the water temperature and the ground, which is taxing the city’s aged water mains.

The frequent breaks are expected to continue at this pace through spring.

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