City's infrastructure problems continue with two water main breaks Monday

For the second time in five days, the city is dealing with two sizable water main breaks that are disrupting service, snarling traffic and shedding light on Baltimore's aging infrastructure.

A 30-inch pipe at East Madison Street near Guilford Avenue broke Monday shortly before 8 a.m. and sent water gushing down Guilford Avenue as well as Fallsway. Businesses and institutions in a 12- to 14-block area either lost water altogether or saw pressure drop for a few hours, including at Mercy Hospital, Our Daily Bread and Center Stage.

As the city worked to restore water pressure to most buildings in the downtown area, a 16-inch pipe broke in Essex, on Philadelphia Road at Rossville Boulevard, affecting water service to Franklin Square Hospital and Essex Community College, which canceled classes for the day. Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works, said crews were responding to the new break, which is part of the city's water system.

Low water pressure in some parts of Franklin Square prompted the hospital to give patients bottled water and hand sanitizer, but otherwise patient care was unaffected, said hospital spokeswoman Trina Adams.

At the day's first water main break, parts of Madison Street had buckled near the intersection and water was shooting upwards from gravel dislodged in the roadway.

Muddy water pooled at the intersection at Fallsway and covered sidewalks, blocking access to several buildings, including Our Daily Bread Employment Center, which had water at its front steps. Staff had to close its public restrooms, which serve as many as 1,000 people a day.

"I felt like I needed a boat to get to work," said Trish Hampton, front desk coordinator at the charity, which had water at its front steps well before 9 a.m. "I saw dark water coming out of the ground."

Our Daily Bread still planned to serve lunch to as many as 800 indigent people starting at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

"We never shut down and we will feed people here today," said Sabree K. Akinyele, director.

Staff had filled numerous containers in the kitchen with water before the pressure dropped and had ordered portable toilets to be set up on its back lot.

The center needs about 50 volunteers a day to assist with lunch service. Many of them had difficulty getting to the center Monday as traffic was rerouted on surrounding streets.

"We heard as we were on our way here and managed to get redirected," said Susan Terranova, who accompanied about a dozen Mount Saint Joseph School freshmen. The students would be bussing tables, serving and cleaning up from lunch, she said, adding she was certain the young volunteers could cope with the day's problems.

Kocher said he had no estimate on how long repairs would take. But he said in the meantime, water pressure had been restored to Mercy Hospital, Our Daily Bread and most other buildings in the area, with only a couple blocks north of Madison along Calvert Street still experiencing loss of service.

The public works spokesman said he did not know when the Madison Street line had been installed, but said it was another old pipe that has long needed replacing, he said.

"First we have to shut down the main and then dig it up to see what repairs are needed," he said.

Residents and businesses in the area will experience low water pressure until repairs are completed, he said.

"Anyone who is seeing cloudy water from the taps should hold off on using that," he said.

The latest pipe rupture follows the break down of a 60-inch main Wednesday at East 20th and North Charles streets, which flooded streets and shut down businesses for more than a day. Workers continue to repair that break, Kocher said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ed Gunts contributed to this article.


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