Crews working to fix 75 main breaks in Detroit amid cold

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Crews were working to repair a main break near Interstate 94 in Detroit, one of more than six dozen ruptures across the city this week tied to arctic conditions, officials said Wednesday night.

An 8-inch water main broke at I-94 and Rosa Parks Boulevard and briefly led to flooding on a section of the freeway, said Bryan Peckinpaugh, a spokesman for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

"It has been shut off to stop flooding the freeway until the pipe can be repaired tomorrow morning," he said in an email.

The shutoff left two homes without water service, he said. The department is providing bottled water until repairs are completed.

The break left water all over the roadway, forcing the ramps to Lodge Freeway to close for hours, the Michigan Department of Transportation reported on Twitter.

The road was reopened by 10 p.m., the Michigan State Police said.

The city has dealt with more than 75 active water main breaks, Peckinpaugh said.

That compares to 160 in January 2019, 43 in January 2020 and 131 last January, according to the water department.

"Unfortunately this time of year we see an increase in water main breaks due to frigid temperatures, further exacerbated by the sustained 20 degrees and below that we've experienced for several days and our aging infrastructure," Peckinpaugh said. "The average age of water mains is 95 years old. We are currently in the midst of a $500 (million) program to begin to upgrade the water and sewer systems."

In an advisory Tuesday announcing the spike in breaks, the water department said it had shifted staffing resources and activated more contractors.

"The priority is to repair water main breaks, which leave residents in Detroit neighborhoods temporarily without water service, and do this work as quickly as possible," the department said.

Water issues can be reported to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department at (313) 267-8000 or by using the Improve Detroit app.

More breaks are possible as the cold continues.

The region has not seen highs above freezing since Jan. 19, National Weather Service records show.

Temperatures so far this month have averaged 4 degrees below normal, the weather service reported.

Arctic conditions are forecast through the weekend.

Thursday is expected to be sunny with highs in the 20s and wind chill values below zero.

The mercury could top out in the teens and fall to the single digits overnight Friday and Saturday.

Temperatures could rebound into the 20s by Monday, then hit the 30s on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.