PHOTOS: Residents, workers clean up after Kensington water main break

Yet another water main break caused massive flooding today, this time at the intersection of Front and Tioga streets in Kensington.

Residents said water started pouring from the ground this morning. “I woke up and it was maybe 7:30,” said resident Cristal LaTorre. “I saw already everything was floating, like a river. I thought it was the beginning of a tsunami.”

Paul Rivera, who works at the intersection, where a sizable sinkhole had opened this afternoon, recounted the story of a coworker who
witnessed the break. “He saw a stream of water shoot up, then it bubbled like a balloon and
burst open,” he said.

It was nearly three hours before Water Department workers were able to shut the water off.

Cleanup crews were using backhoes to scoop debris from the street this afternoon as far as five blocks from the break. “They’re still sweeping up dirt,” LaTorre said. “The water brought trash blocks and blocks away.”

Because the rupture was located near the top of a hill, it didn’t pool as deep as the main that burst at 21st and Bainbridge streets, but the water’s reach was more extensive. Residents living further downhill, near Westmoreland Street, reported up to four feet of water in their basements.

Ron Waite, who owns a hardware store at Front and Tioga streets, said
his utilities weren’t affected and his store suffered no damage, but he
was dealt a blow in the form of lost profit. “Usually by now, we’ve had 30 to 40 people in the store,” he said this afternoon. “I think we’ve had four or five.”

The pipe is the third main to burst in less than two weeks. Sunday, July 22, a 48-inch main ruptured at 21st and Bainbridge streets in Graduate Hospital, opening a mammoth sinkhole in the intersection that is still being repaired.

A week later, a smaller, eight-inch main broke around Willits and Ashton roads in Northeast Philadelphia.

Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug said a combination of temperature-related stress, comparatively low citizen-paid water rates and a lack of federal infrastructure funding is to blame, though the direct cause of each break has yet to be determined.

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