DUMBO

Water main break in DUMBO floods basements with sewage

September 6, 2019 Mary Frost
A water main break flooded Water Street in DUMBO for hours on Thursday, backing up sewage into the surrounding basements. Shown: Workers for Halcyon Construction Corp. placed sandbags on Water Street to funnel the water into the sewer. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

A water main break flooded a DUMBO block with cascading water for hours Thursday morning. The rushing water swamped sewers, which backed up into the basements of surrounding buildings starting around 9:50 a.m.

The gusher happened on Water Street between Pearl and Jay streets, which was being dug up as part of the second and final phase of a $20 million DUMBO street, water and sewer renovation plan.

The city disconnected water to the buildings surrounding the break for about four hours.

Halcyon Construction Corp. was excavating the street when a large section of buried pipe disconnected and water began to shoot out. Despite closing all the known valves, workers said, the water continued to spurt, causing waves on Water Street as it rushed towards sewer drains.

Workers speculated that the old water main had been held largely in place by pressure from the covering dirt, Belgium block and asphalt, and when these were removed the pipe burst.

The Department of Environmental Protection, however, told a local official that the contractor accidentally hit the water main.

NYC Department of Design and Construction is investigating the cause of the break.

DDC “reached out to our office and all stakeholders with a notification at the time the water main break occurred,” Glomani Bravo-Lopez, deputy chief of staff for Councilmember Stephen Levin told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday.

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“We have since been in touch with DDC and DEP. DEP operations explained that the city contractor working on the block accidentally hit the water main, and they are performing restoration themselves. DDC’s entire team is hard at work on this.” Bravo-Lopez said.

However, he added, “It is quite early in the process to state that this was the fault of the contractor, and of course, given the condition of our city infrastructure, it is not out of the realm of possibility that such breaks would occur.”

The section of pipe that blew, causing the flood on Water Street. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
The section of pipe that blew, causing the flood on Water Street. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

While DDC sent out a notice at 10:18 a.m. that the water main would be shut for four hours, “it wasn’t shut until 12:10 p.m. The buildings along the street were flooded with at least six inches of water,” Doreen Gallo, president of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, told the Eagle.

The group has been actively trying to preserve the historic hand-cut Belgian blocks paving DUMBO’s historic streets. The blocks have provided the scenic backdrops for hundreds of films and attracted thousands of tourists to the neighborhood.

“The other unfortunate issue is that Department of Sanitation failed to pick up residential garbage for Tuesday and Thursday along Water Street and other streets,” Gallo said.

Gallo is also not happy that the construction workers have taken over the neighborhood’s parking spaces. Parking is already scarce because of other development projects in DUMBO, she said.

“There is a complete takeover,” she said. The contractor puts up temporary construction signs on residential streets and workers take over the parking “instead of taking mass transit,” Gallo said. Residents who were parked on Jay Street between Plymouth and Water streets recently received tickets because they were legally parked on the street before the signs were changed.

The water shutoff was too late to save basements from the disgusting sewage.

Chris, the business manager at popular deli Lassen & Hennigs at 177 Water St., coped with the mess with a sense of humor.

“Our entire basement looked like Les Miserables — all of Les Miserables,” he told the Eagle. “There was sewage, there were barricades, prostitutes — just kidding, there were no barricades.”

Employees had to pile up items in the basement on a higher surface, he said. “I had to throw out my shoes yesterday. I had a meeting after work, so thank God I had brought a change of clothes and a pair of flip-flops.”

Since the street was blocked and the shop had no water for hours, “We lost a lot of business,” Chris added.

City agencies reported that repairs were completed and water service restored around 4 p.m. Blenda Coracao, community construction liaison for NYC Department of Design and Construction, said that all those affected should run their cold-water faucets for 30 minutes before using for it for drinking or cooking, removing faucet strainers or aerators beforehand.

Update: DDC spokesperson Ian Michaels told the Eagle on Friday that the break occurred “on a 24-inch main from 1905 inside the project area. An investigation is being performed to determine the cause.”

He added that property owners claiming damages can use this form to make claims to DDC, and should pursue a claim with the Comptroller’s Office as well.

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