A 30-inch water main on Homehurst Avenue in Overbrook, Pittsburgh, PA burst in 2015, opening a sinkhole that swallowed a truck and a trailer. Water from the massive break rushed down a hill, flooded homes, scattered personal items and knocked one residence off its foundation. No one was reported injured.
The water main break affected Homehurst, Hillview and Kingwood Streets in the Overbrook neighborhood. Dozens of people were left without water. Water buffaloes were set up to provide water for drinking and cooking. Other people living in South Pittsburgh experienced low water pressure.
Roads in the area were blocked to start repairs. At first, Pennsylvania-American Water, which owns the large main pipe, anticipated that water service would be quickly restored. Heavy rains overnight delayed repairs. Then a second water main broke in the neighborhood, leaving customers on Walton Avenue without water. The water utility prioritized repair work based on the order they were received and the level of the emergency.
The 30-inch main line in Overbrook that ruptured was installed in the 1960s.
PA has a lot of aging water mains. Water pipe breaks in the state increased 40% from 2014 to 2018, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
Outdated water pipes is an infrastructure problem across the U.S. Many water pipes in the country “were laid in the early to mid-20th century with a lifespan of 75 to 100 years,” ASCE wrote at Infrastructure Report Card. The society estimates 240,000 water mains break each year in America, wasting a lot of water.
Pennsylvania-American Water Company is a PA utility company that provides water and sewage services to 2 million people in Pittsburgh and 370 other service areas. It is a division of American Water, which is owned mostly by large institutional investors. The utility spent more than $300 million in PA in 2019 to improve their water treatment plants, update water meters and make other improvements to their infrastructure, including replacing water mains. Water pipes were replaced in Carrick.