Beacon Hill streets were turned into a “river” early Tuesday morning when a mishap involving a Boston Water & Sewer Commission contractor broke part of a water main, sending massive amounts of water coursing down the sloping neighborhood.
“Water was cascading down. It looked like a river,’' said BWSC spokesman Tom Bagley. “Two big sinkholes are there now.”
Deputy Chief James Greene briefs the media on the water main break .There were no evacuation needed, no injuries to report . @ISDBoston building, electrical ,plumbing investigating any water damage to the buildings . @BOSTON_WATER is fixing the main. pic.twitter.com/XDxg33kSKj— Boston Fire Dept. (@BostonFire) September 21, 2021
The contractor, D’Allessandro Corp., was replacing a 30-inch water main on Myrtle Street when a “gate valve let go” and thousands of gallons of water then flowed down Hancock Street, which has a 40 degree slope, Bagley said.
The basements of multiple residential properties on Myrtle and Hancock streets were flooded, but no one in the impacted area was forced to leave their homes due to water damage, Bagley said.
The flow of water was shut off after 45 minutes, Bagley said.
Around 50 residents on Myrtle Street were without water service as of 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to Bagley. He said the commission expects service to be restored later in the afternoon. Power outages on Myrtle Street affected less than five Eversourcecq customers Tuesday afternoon, the company’s outage map indicates.
A fleet of construction workers surrounded a gaping sinkhole at the intersection of Hancock and Myrtle Streets Tuesday morning that had swallowed a street lamp and crept dangerously close to apartment buildings at the corner of Myrtle Street.
Residents of the area stood along Hancock Street, inspecting the destruction the water left behind. Bricks had been torn out of the sidewalk and a layer of dirt covered much of the street. Several small chunks of the street were missing, and crews worked to fill another sinkhole at the bottom of the hill.
Hancock Street was closed Tuesday while crews work to repair the damage. Workers could be seen pumping water and clearing dirt out of basements along the road.
Florence Faro, who lives at 47 Hancock St., was working to dry her home Tuesday morning after more than 3 feet of water accumulated in her basement overnight. The noise of the rushing water jolted her from her sleep at around 1:30 a.m.
“You could hear the water coming down the street like an ocean,” she said. “You see pictures of flooding, but the force of the water coming down the street was frightening. You couldn’t stand in it. It would have swept you down the street.”
She watched from the top of the staircase leading up to her home as the water tore bricks out of the sidewalk. She said the water level on the street reached the second step of the staircase, at least a foot off the ground.
D’Allessandro Corp. is on a two-year contract with the city to upgrade the sewer, water, and drain system in the area of Myrtle Street and Hancock Street, Bagley said. The contract began in the fall of 2019 and work was scheduled to wrap up in a few months.
Residents on Myrtle Street had been alerted prior to Tuesday’s incident that D’Allessandro Corp. construction would disrupt water service between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., Bagley said.
D’Allessandro Corp.’s president, Jon D’Allessandro, said in a statement crews began work in the area two months ago and that the company had not violated its contract with the city.
The company, he said, had contacted the commission in June to request the water main that broke Tuesday be “shut down and remain closed for the duration of our work out of concern for the safety of local residents and our crews.”
“We followed all contractual and safety procedures and an inspector from Boston Water and Sewer was onsite monitoring the project when the 30 [inch] water main’s valve gave way early this morning,” the statement said.
The commission will investigate to determine how the contractor’s effort to replace water mains produced a flood of a city street, he said. “What happened they are not exactly sure,’' Bagley said. “It’s under investigation.”
Bagley urged anyone who believes they suffered damage related to the break to file a claim with the commission. “We will let the chips fall where they may once we have determined what happened,’' he said.
He would not indicate if the company would be held responsible for damage inflicted by the flooding, citing the investigation.
The utilities companies @EversourceMA @nationalgridus are on scene. The water has comprised parts of Myrtle & Hancock st , @BostonPWD to assess the damages to the streets. There are partial street closures in the area, @bostonpolice . pic.twitter.com/JyO7QGaChl— Boston Fire Dept. (@BostonFire) September 21, 2021
Boston firefighters went door to door to check on residents, the department tweeted.
“No evacuation needed, no injuries to report,” the department tweeted.
Workers had nearly filled the sinkhole at the bottom of Hancock Street by noon on Tuesday. Progress farther up the hill was slow going.
At Jim Faucher’s ground level apartment at 33 Hancock St., crews were working to shovel dirt that had piled up on the basement staircase after water flowed in overnight.
“The water was careening off of the tree guards and deflecting into the basement,” he said.
He estimated at least two feet of dirt had accumulated on the stairs.
At the bottom of the hill, apartments took on less severe flooding. Gillian Gattie, who lives with her twin, Vivien, said she was alerted to the water main break when a firefighter knocked on their door. She found “surface level” flooding in the basement.
“They said ‘you’re lucky, because you only have surface water,’” she said. “Its going to take them ages to get this street cleaned up.”
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