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Water main breaks decrease nearly 40 percent in two years, Baltimore city officials say

The number of water main breaks in Baltimore city continued to decline for the second consecutive year — a two-year decline of nearly 40 percent — city officials said Thursday.

In fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, the city faced 798 water main breaks. In fiscal years 2014 and 2015 there were 1,310 and 1,165 breaks respectively. The agency credits proactive maintenance for the sustained decrease, according to a news release.

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"While we still have a long way to go in addressing our aging water infrastructure, I am very encouraged by this trend," said Rudolph S. Chow, director of public works in a statement. "We knew that we needed to be aggressive in our water main renewal efforts, and our actions are paying dividends."

A water main break on West Mulbbery Street in downtown Baltimore resulted in a sinkhole that caused minor injuries to a city worker on the Fourth of July and has kept the street closed. In April, another break caused a partial street collapse in the 100 block of West Centre Street.

The average age of the city's water mains is 75 years old, according to a press release. There are more than 4,000 miles of water mains in the city.

Public works spokesman Jeffrey Raymond said when Chow became director in 2014, he brought an aggressive focus on proactive repairs and construction schedules that has accounted for the improvements.

"It's not a secret that we've needed to do much more replacement, rehab and proactive maintenance of our mains," Raymond said. "That's been very much at the forefront."

The department replaced 19 miles of water mains this past fiscal year, passing an internal goal of 15 miles, according to a release. The average cost per mile is between $1.5 million to $2 million, according to the department.

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