CBS: Kingsessing Water Main Break Latest Example Of Trouble With Philadelphia’s Aging Water Infrastructure

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Gushing water flooding city streets. A massive water main break in Southwest Philadelphia’s Kingsessing section forced evacuations and school closures. Wednesday’s water main break is just the latest example of the trouble with the city’s aging water system.

The Philadelphia Water Department says these breaks are going to happen and all they can do is respond as quickly as possible.

“The whole neighborhood, this is what we get,” said Paula Allen, who lives in Kingsessing.

Frustration is bubbling over in Kingsessing as neighbors watched thousands of gallons of water flow down their streets Wednesday.

The 48-inch main that broke at South 56th Street and Springfield Avenue is one of the city’s largest mains. It’s also one of the oldest. It was installed back in 1921, making it over 100 years old.

“We never want a main break to occur,” said Brian Rademaekers, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Water Department, “but when they do occur, our job is to come out here and respond quickly as possible and minimize any impacts to the customers.”

The average age of the city’s water mains is 76 years old. The main that broke in July at 6th and Bainbridge Streets in Queen Village was 130 years old.

In the infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden, $55 billion was included for water infrastructure.

“The key thing is to at least have resources in place so you can execute,” Rep. Dwight Evans said. “You have the money that is there, now the execution of it.”

The Philadelphia Water Department manages 3,100 miles of water mains. They’re currently replacing about 19 miles of mains every year, with the goal to increase that to 42 miles per year by 2026.

States were already allocated funding from the infrastructure law. Now, it’s up to individual cities and agencies to prioritize projects.

“There should be a priority on serving neighborhoods like Kingsessing that have been disadvantaged, that have not had upgrade work done so we’re hoping that money can get out quickly,” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon said.

The water department gave no estimate on when the intersection in Kingsessing would be fixed and reopened, but they’re still in process of repairing the main in Queen Village.