HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A water main break flooded several streets in downtown Hoboken Tuesday morning, shutting down an elementary school and swallowing an entire sport-utility vehicle.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, streets became streams after the 12-inch water main broke around 4 a.m. at the intersection of 5th Street and Willow Avenue.
The SUV became submerged in the brown water to the point where it was not even visible. CBS2’s cameras were rolling as crews drained the hole and pulled out the car with a single chain.
“The cops woke me up at 4 a.m. and asked me to move my car but by the time I got out there, it was already on an angle so they tried to pull it out and tow it and it didn’t work so I watched it sink,” the SUV’s owner, Cara Rogerino, exclusively told CBS2’s Bauman.
The windows were broken and the vehicle was caked in mud afterward. Rogerino said it is now time for a new car – and after her SUV made it through Superstorm Sandy with her.
“It looked very reminiscent of Sandy because I lived here through Sandy so it was just a river of water going down Willow Street and it was progressively going higher and higher,” Rogerino said.
The break also left some customers with little or no water pressure.
“I have two dogs, I got to make sure they have water, I’ve had no water all morning,” resident Chris Moore told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck.
Once resident, Joe Cicala, saw the mess Tuesday morning, he bought 10 gallons of water because he says he has been through this many times before.
“It’s not new,” he said. “Every month there’s a break in Hoboken. For years it’s been like this. You know, hopefully one day, they’ll fix it a little bit.”
SUEZ Water said service was later restored to customers, but some low pressure was expected to persist, WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron reported.
“We want to make sure we’re getting everything that needs to get repaired, replaced so we can go back and fill in and repave the road,” said Treva Spencer with SUEZ Water.
Water officials said the pipes deep underground had been ignored for too long.
“If you don’t see it, you don’t deal with it, right? So the infrastructure may have been in place for quite some time,” Spencer said.
Spencer noted that it is the city’s job to maintain and monitor the old pipes.
“I don’t know if there’s a crystal ball or answer how to prevent a water main break. You just have to really, like I said, monitor the system and replace them when they need to be replaced,” Spencer said, adding she did not know how often the mains should be replaced.
But indeed the mains have been in place for quite some time – Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said most of the pipes are a century old. CBS2’s Bauman was demanding answers Tuesday.
Bauman: “People here say that these water main breaks, they happen every couple months almost, it feels like. I mean, why has it gotten to that point?”
Zimmer: “Because, you know, the city — going back decades — hasn’t made the investment.”
Zimmer plans to invest up to $5 million every year in replacing and monitoring the city’s water mains.
“On Washington Street, our water main will be replaced, and then there’s other priority locations throughout the city,” Zimmer said, and we are also renegotiating our agreement with SUEZ to include, you know, making investments in the water main systems.“
But today, the pipes rust, the water flows, and the patience of the residents is tested.
Zimmer said the goal is to have water mains on Washington Street replaced within the year. As for the rest of the city, she said water mains should be checked every year.
The city is also looking to invest in technology that detects leaks before they become a large problem.
Willow Avenue and Clinton Street were closed between 4th and 6th streets following the main break. NJ TRANSIT 126 buses were detoured to Washington Street.
This was the second water main break in Hoboken this month and the third main break this year. At 6 p.m., CBS2’s Bauman will talk one-on-one with the mayor and demand answers.