Street, utility repairs resume after sinkhole swallows cars

- Welcome to the Grand Canyon of Fishtown. Philadelphia Water department crews spent Monday capping lines and digging out the mess left behind when a brick sewer dating to the 1890s cracked, leading to a break in the cast iron water main installed in the 1860s. Nearly 20 homes were left without water, and a half dozen or so saw their gas shut off.

The "canyon" is 50 feet long and ten feet deep in spots.

"Never a dull moment," said homeowner Joe Sergi.  "It's going to be quite a while, I think, till we're able to come back up the street."

The Sunday sinkhole caused by washed out soil below ground swallowed two cars, including one owned by Alyssa Banks.

"Just leaving (the house)," she said, "and there was a big giant hole in the ground with my car in it."

'Tis the season. The city of Philadelphia sees about 900 water main breaks each year, with two-thirds coming during the winter months. On the 1400 block of Fletcher St., Sunday, a 6-inch cast iron main from the 1890s ruptured, swamping the street and interrupting service to several customers.

And last Thursday, on the 11000 block of Millbrook, homes were flooded when an 8-inch main installed in the 1950s cracked.

Water department spokesman John DiGiulio says more than 60% of the city's 2800 miles of water mains are cast-iron. Each winter, as ice-cold water pulled from the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers courses through the rigid pipes, cracks can form.

"There's no expansion and contraction with it," said DiGiulio.  "They just break. Ductile iron has more give."

On Boston Street as in just about all city repairs and replacement projects, ductile iron pipes will be used.
It's more flexible- less likely to break in the extreme cold. But fully replacing the old pipes all over Philly?

"They'd  have to tear up every street in the city to fix it," says Boston  street resident Erin Murphy. "Probably don't have the money for that." 

Some of those who lost water service on Boston street already have it back.
But a half dozen or so homeowners will likely be without water and gas for at least a week.

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