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Baltimore City Engineers Blame Aging Infrastructure For Water Main Breaks, Sinkhole

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Rochelle Ritchie joined WJZ Eyewitness News in June 2012. Prio...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– What is happening to Baltimore streets? First, a major water main break near the Inner Harbor. Now, a sinkhole near Johns Hopkins Hospital shuts down more roads.

Rochelle Ritchie explains, city engineers are blaming an aging system.

The storm drain system in Baltimore was built during the Great Depression more than 70 years ago. As it has aged, it has cost the city thousands to repair and could cost millions to rebuild.

It’s a familiar sound and problem on Baltimore City streets.

“They’re all messed up,” pedestrian Angela Jackson said.

In just several days, the city has had two major issues with it’s aging infrastructure tearing apart the asphalt.

“This is the nature of the aging infrastructure situation in many large cities. Baltimore is not an exception,” Al Shapiro, chief of the Baltimore City Utility Maintenance, said.

A water main break less than two weeks ago, and on Wednesday, a 20 feet-deep, 2 feet-wide and 6 feet-long sinkhole opening into a storm drain built in the 1930s.

“Right now, we are sending a crew in to do a walk inspection of the large storm drain under the street,” Shapiro said.

Sky Eye Chopper 13 over the scene shows the gaping hole in the middle of the street causing confusion amongst pedestrians navigating their way around closed roads, and a lack of business for store owners.

“The whole street closed. No business, few customers coming in,” business owner Wan Kim said.

The city says it is taking the necessary measures to find and fix the problem. So far, crews have used a camera underground to look at the damage, scanned water mains to find any other leaks and checked the sewer drains to make sure they’re are intact.

“It will give us an indication of what needs to be done in order to make a correction,” Shapiro said.

But some say that correction will be just another temporary fix for a permanent problem.

“They need a better system,” Jackson said. “All this money they’re making, I don’t see why it’s not better than what it is.”

But funding such a project could take millions and years to complete.

“It’s a tremendous investment and that’s going to be necessary in order to achieve a steady state,” Shapiro said.

And if the damage is to the 120 inch-culvert, the street could be closed for a while.

On average, there are two to three water main breaks everyday in the city.

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