Queens sewer fix part of two-year, $800 million water main project plan

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DEP workers sealed a broken 12 inch valve in the water main on West 102nd Street and Central Park West after it broke on Jan. 19, causing minor flooding to buildings and shutting down the subway for about 2 hours this morning. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Hoping to avoid the kind of recent water main breaks that left parts Manhattan a mess, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his office would be pumping in $800 million in underground infrastructure improvements over the next two years.

According to the Mayor’s office, the funding also includes $21 million toward water main and sewer improvements in South Jamaica, Queens. That neighborhood was hit hard last year by a massive sewage backup that left numerous basements flooded.

The bulk of the funding will go toward water main replacements across the city. Earlier this month, the city suffered two high-profile water main ruptures within a week in Manhattan. Both breaks caused flooding in underground subway tunnels that caused massive delays and disruptions.

Still, the Mayor’s office maintained that New York City “has one of the most reliable water main systems in the country,” averaging 6.6 breaks for every 100 miles of water main. By comparison, most large American cities average 25 breaks for every 100 main miles. 

Regular maintenance and replacement, the mayor said, has proven to be the difference for the city.

“New York City water is famous for its drinkability,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We must ensure our infrastructure keeps it where it is supposed to be – en route to New Yorkers homes and not spilling out all over the sidewalk. Our investments will continue to bring down water main breaks and bring New Yorkers their water safely.”

The two-year plan calls for an additional $128 million in capital funds to replace one percent of New York City’s entire water main system every year. The new funding, according to the Mayor’s office, will be geared toward “priority projects” to be identified in the weeks to come.

The city already has “dozens” of water main projects in the works, including $114 million in water main replacements for the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Manhattan Beach and East New York, the Mayor’s office indicated.

The Department of Environmental Protection, tasked with maintaining the city’s water and sewer lines, will also be adding three crews for proactive main inspections, and another three crews to inspect valves.

The DEP will also be meeting with the city’s Emergency Management Department, the FDNY, the Department of Transportation, Con Edison, National Grid and the MTA to examine and better coordinate responses to water main breaks. 

Finally, the DEP will develop a predictive model to forecast the likelihood of future water main breaks around the city, using data such as the age, size, material and historical performance of each main, along with neighborhood water demand.