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Baltimore Sees Record Number Of Water Main Breaks

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Thanks to extreme temperatures, Baltimore City kicked off the year with a record number of water main breaks, ruptures that frustrated residents and overwhelmed crews.

Monique Griego was there as the city mapped out its plan to start fixing the problem.

To put it simply, the city’s water main system is breaking down due to old age. While there’s now a plan in the works to replace it little by little, that project is going to take decades.

A water main break on North Avenue and the JFX is just another example of the city’s ongoing pipe problems.

“Frustrated is an understatement,” said Evan Siple, who works near the rupture.

Siple works on Fleet Street, where last month a ruptured line iced over roads and even cars.

In January, extreme cold temperatures, combined with Baltimore’s aging infrastructure, led to a record amount of water main breaks.

“They just seem to be playing Keystone Cops with all the water main breaks and playing catch up with an infrastructure that’s just imploding on itself,” Siple said.

According to the Department of Public Works, in all of 2013, the city saw 1,136 ruptures. But last month alone, we saw nearly a third of that number with 353.

“We have an old system here and it’s our responsibility to renew that system,” said DPW Acting Director Rudy Chow.

Tuesday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and DPW mapped out a 100-year, 4,000-mile plan to replace the city’s entire water main system—pipes that on average are around 75 years old. Over the next five years, the city plans to replace 150 miles of mains. After that, the schedule will be 40 miles per year.

In addition to the record number of breaks, DPW also had an overwhelming amount of water-related service calls. On average in January, they respond to around 5,000, but this year they hit nearly 13,000 and crews are still playing catch up.

“I continue to ask the public to be patient as our crews work to resolve these issues,” Rawlings-Blake said.

As for those dealing with breaks, the replacement can’t come soon enough.

“They just gotta do a lot more to pick it up and make the city a better place,” said Ryan Bowers, who works nearby.

The mayor says crews have been working 12-hour shifts and the city has even called in outside contractors to help fix all the recent breaks.

The cost to replace that first 150 miles of main is expected to be around $300 million.

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