Water was restored to thousands of South Baltimore residents early yesterday afternoon after a 48-inch main that runs along the Patapsco River bottom broke, forcing 11 schools to close around lunchtime and sending students home early.
The break was isolated to a spot on the pipe that apparently is not far from the river bank. It had not been repaired as of last night, said Kurt L. Kocher, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works.
Water was being diverted from other mains in West Baltimore to Brooklyn, Curtis Bay, Westport and Cherry Hill, he said.
Still, city officials warned that last evening some customers from South to Northwest Baltimore, including downtown, might have seen a drop in water pressure and discoloration "from sedimentation stirred up by reversing the water flow in some pipes."
People should let water run a bit until it is clear before using it, Kocher said, urging residents last night to refrain from unnecessary water use. Oil refineries and other large businesses in the Fairfield area were asked to restrict water use.
The break occurred about 10:30 a.m. when a private contractor doing marine construction work in the Patapsco River accidentally damaged the main, which sits on the bottom parallel to the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and brings water in from Southeast to South Baltimore.
Crews isolated the break yesterday afternoon but had not begun repairs, which could take some time, Kocher said.
Water service was restored about 2 p.m., and the break was isolated an hour later, Kocher said.
The schools closed yesterday were Southside Academy, New Era Academy, Carter G. Woodson Elementary/Middle, Arundel Elementary/Middle, Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle, Patapsco Elementary, Benjamin Franklin Elementary/Middle, Curtis Bay Elementary, Bay Brook Elementary, Maree Garnett Farring Elementary, and Westport Academy.
Kocher praised the Anne Arundel County Fire Department for sending water tanker trucks to the affected areas in the city in case water volume was seriously threatened.
"Their Fire Department took themselves off the use of city water for one day so the water tanks in those affected areas of the city could refill," Kocher said. "They were a great help."