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Yet another Manhattan water main break disrupts subway service – and annoys MTA

DEP workers sealed a broken 12 inch valve in the water main on West 102nd Street and Central Park West after it broke early this morning, causing minor flooding to buildings and shutting down the subway for about 2 hours this morning. DEP worker clears water lines ater fixing valve. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

For the second time in less than a week, a major water main break in Manhattan impacted service on major subway lines serving the city.

The burst of what officials say was a 12-inch main valve happened at about 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 19 at the corner of 102nd Street and Central Park West. This led to flooding on the nearby A, C and D lines underground, near the 103rd Street station.

DEP workers sealed a broken 12 inch valve in the water main (pictured) on West 102nd Street and Central Park West after it broke eArly this morning, causing minor flooding to buildings and shutting down the subway for about 2 hours this morning. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Service has resumed on the lines with delays, as the MTA and the city’s Emergency Management Department reported. But the MTA was quick to hurl blame at the city for a slow response to the incident.

Sally Librera, senior vice president of subways for New York City Transit, said service on the line was immediately halted between 59th Street and 125th Street. However, the water level near the burst main “rose above the third rail, making conditions dangerous to operate trains.”

As a result, the MTA completely cut off power from all tracks south of 86th Street to north of 116th Street.

But the MTA’s response to the incident, Librera said, was complicated by water continuing to pour onto the tracks from the burst main. She added that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) only shut the main down at 9 a.m., more than 90 minutes after the break happened.

A DEP spokesperson, however, told amNewYork Metro the main was shut off “about an hour” after the burst occurred — or, about 8:30 a.m.

MTA New York City Transit responds to water main break that occurred on Central Park West and West 102 St. on Sun., January 19, 2020, sending water into the 103 St Station along the A/B/C/D lines
Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

“New York City Transit continues to work to dewater the tracks and asses any impact to signals and other systems,” Librera said. “We are in the process of examining four stop machines, a substation at 99th Street, and all third rail cables.”

Meanwhile, Librera expressed frustration with the city over the latest infrastructure snafu. On Jan. 13, a water main break a few blocks north of Columbus Circle cut off service on the 1, 2 and 3 lines for most of the day. 

“This is the second time this week our customers have been denied service for too lengthy a period because of a major city water main break that flooded our system,” Librera said. “We hope this latest incident will spur quicker shut-off response times by the city and a review of its aging system in hopes of avoiding similar situations moving forward.”

DEP officials on the scene declared the valve repaired by 1:10 p.m. Workers remained on the scene cleaning the street and removing debris. A worker on the scene intimated that salt on the street related to the snowfall may have contributed to the rupture.

About 80 customers on Central Park West between 101st and 103rd Streets lost water service most of the morning due to the burst and related repairs, according to a DEP spokesperson.

Ask for comment in response to Librera’s statements, the DEP spokesperson cited statistics about the frequency of water main breaks in the city, and investments the agency is making to upgrade lines before disaster strikes.

“In New York City, there are 6.5 water main breaks for every 100 miles of water main,” the spokesperson said. “The national average is 25 breaks for every 100 miles. DEP invests about $400 million annually to build new mains – that’s about a mile of new main every week of the year.”

DEP workers sealed a broken 12 inch valve in the water main on West 102nd Street and Central Park West after it broke early this morning, causing minor flooding to buildings and shutting down the subway for about 2 hours this morning. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
DEP workers sealed a broken 12 inch valve in the water main on West 102nd Street and Central Park West after it broke early this morning, causing minor flooding to buildings and shutting down the subway for about 2 hours after the main was shut down this morning. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

With reporting by Todd Maisel

This story was updated at 1:45 p.m.

Robert Pozarycki