Center City water main break: What we know (and what we don’t)

The pipe that burst was built in 1927. It might be “months” before restoration is complete.

The scene at Juniper and Sansom Street around 7:20 a.m. Tuesday, July 3

The scene at Juniper and Sansom Street around 7:20 a.m. Tuesday, July 3

Twitter / @PhilaOEM
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Updated 3:52 p.m.

Early Tuesday morning, there was a break in a 91-year-old water main pipe near Sansom and Juniper streets in Center City.

Officials have not determined the cause of the break, which caused some serious flooding in the neighborhood — an estimated six inches of gushing water made its way through various Center City streets before officials from the Philadelphia Water Department got it under control. Even then, the flooding left behind mud and debris on Philly streets.

At least 1,000 customers were reported to have lost power temporarily, an issue Philadelphia Water Commissioner Debra A. McCarty said at a press conference she believed was caused by short circuits in flooded basements, not from any PECO action to shut down parts of the grid.

Around 30 to 40 properties ended up with “water in the cellar,” according to Water Dept. spokesperson John DiGiulio. There has been no serious structural damage reported yet, per McCarty, so Licenses and Inspections has not been called in. Restaurants that lost power may need Health Dept. inspections in order to reopen, she advised.

Several affected restaurants are owned by Craft Concepts Group, which is run by restaurateur Teddy Sourias.

“It’s a mess,” Sourias told Billy Penn Tuesday afternoon. His staff had been working since 6 a.m. Tuesday to clean up water in U-Bahn, the underground bar at 1320 Chestnut St., he said. The bottom bar at Sourias’ soon-to-open BBQ joint Tradesmen’s, at the corner of Juniper and Chestnut had “six feet of water,” he estimated. “We were basically ready to open…”

Asked if this was one of the largest breaks she’s had to deal with in her tenure, McCarty shrugged. “This year,” she said, noting that the department dealt with 600 smaller breaks between January and March of this year alone. “Every break of this magnitude is devastating to those affected.”

Officials will set up an information tent at 13th and Sansom streets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 5. Anyone affected will be able to ask questions, get help filling out insurance forms, and find out additional information.

McCarty estimated the full restoration of the pipe could take “months.”

What else we know

What we don’t know

  • Officials have not determined the cause of the break. Water Dept. officials said increased used because of the excessive heat might be to blame. Others have speculated it could have been caused by construction at the intersection, which has been ongoing for months.

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