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Minor water break buffets East Baltimore

Mayor Rawlings-Blake says she's been warning about the perils of aging infrastructure for years.

water main or service line haven

Water burbles up out of a hole in South Haven Street, from a ruptured service line.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Another city water line ruptured this morning, this time in the unit block of South Haven Street in East Baltimore, near the Baltimore Street intersection.

At about 10:30 a.m., water was gushing up from a break in asphalt on the southbound travel lane, where a two-inch service line runs, city workers said.

The center of the road, where water was also welling up from a crack, is the location of the city water main. “It’s hard to say whether it’s just the service line or the main’s broken too,” a worker said.

City crews diverted traffic away from the block of Haven south of Baltimore Street, noting that heavy trucks in the largely industrial area might cause the roadway to collapse further.

In contrast with the raging rivers that flowed down Charles Street and Madison Street in the past week, today’s spill was a benign brook, gurgling down the hill into a storm drain.

“There’s a Crisis”

At a morning news conference at City Hall, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake took up a reporter’s question about whether the city is facing chronic failures of its infrastructure.

Workers were directing the water from this burst pipe down the street, and into a storm drain. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Workers were directing water from this burst pipe down South Haven Street and into a storm drain. (Photo by Fern Shen)

“There’s been a crisis involving infrastructure,” the mayor said. “I’ve been talking about it for years.”

She characterized the response to the crisis as “selective amnesia” where unsexy topics, such as upgrading storm drains and replacing sewers, drop from political discourse soon after an immediate problem is solved.

“We need additional resources to meet the level of construction needed for our aging infrastructure,” she said.

Asked if the recent spate of infrastructure breaks have put a strain on city finances, she said without elaborating that the city can pay for the emergency work.

Repairs Underway

In addition to the projected $7 million needed to restore a storm-drain tunnel whose fracture has caused sinkholes on East Monument Street, the city is making repairs to a damaged 60-inch water line at Charles and 20th streets and a 30-inch main at Madison Street and Guilford Avenue.

Bureau of Water spokesman Kurt Kocher said today that Madison Street will be closed for a few more days as utilities are restored and the roadway repaved. Crews at Charles Street have isolated the broken water line and will begin installing new pipes and couplings to the original line, which was installed in the 1920s.

Kocher said there are often scores of water main cracks when the weather changes. He attributed the recent breaks in part to colder nights and fluctuating temperatures.

A shopping center parking lot was damaged by water that cascaded from a broken water main on Madison Street on Monday. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

A shopping center parking lot on Guilford Avenue was damaged by water that cascaded from a busted water main on Madison Street on Monday. Crews tear out more broken pavement in the background. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

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  • cwals99

    As I start to hear calls from pols and such for a tax/rate increase to pay for these water infrastructure projects I want to remind people that the last rate increase was a flat rate for all and did not consider the amount of use…..ie companies use copious amounts of water as compared to you and I.  That argument was ignored as usual and companies, especially those in Enterprise Zones are getting tax breaks that often relieve them of city service and maintenance fees.

    We need to start the dialog now about how to make this infrastructure upgrade progressive because you know they will simply pass it on to the low/middle class of the city.

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