Buckets and trash cans filled with water lined the entrances to businesses along Broadway in East Baltimore, and a once-green field between Lombard and Baltimore streets was a muddy wasteland.

The buckets supplied shop owners with the only fresh water they'd had since Saturday evening, when an aging pipe running underneath the field cracked. Crews had been working to restore water to the more than 500 residents living within the boundaries of Broadway and Lombard, Caroline and Fayette streets.


Brad Orwig, who lives on Broadway near the field, said he lost water sometime late Saturday. He was told that his water would be back on by Monday but had yet to see the results of that promise. "It's been horrible," Orwig said.

Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works, said the repairs had been made late Tuesday afternoon and water was slowly being restored to hundreds of homes and businesses. It was to be fully restored by Tuesday night.

It had been a frustrating ordeal.

For three days, crews had been working to repair the break, which workers said they had thought they fixed twice. But water continued to leak after both attempts. Officials were able to turn on the water for a few minutes Tuesday morning but, every time the pipe was pressurized, it continued to leak.

"Somebody told me the water came on for like a minute," Orwig said. But it was "brown and murky."

Art Shapiro, who heads the repair effort for the city Public Works Department, said crews have been working day and night trying to repair the break to ensure that there won't be any more problems with this pipe in the future.

Shapiro blames the difficult repair on an "aging infrastructure system" in which the generations-old pipes have become polluted with a buildup of rust and mineral deposits. The deposits have prevented workers from sliding a repair coupling onto the pipe to seal the area where the leaks have been occurring.

"It's not like slipping your wedding ring on your finger," Shapiro said.

Instead, the crews are presented with the difficult task of grinding the existing pipe down to where the pipe is clean and free of debris to ensure a tight seal.

"This is not normal for us to take this long," Shapiro said. "We want to make sure this is absolutely right."

Meanwhile, Kocher said water is being offered to residents at Baltimore and Bond streets. He also expressed his gratitude toward residents in the area for their cooperation with the prolonged water deficit.

"We do appreciate everyone's patience in this matter," Kocher said. "We've had crews there 'round the clock."

Residents are advised that when service is restored their water might be discolored or cloudy. Officials suggest people turn on a faucet to its lowest level and allow it to run for about 10 minutes or until the water clears.