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Watermain mystery looms in Pelham Bay street

Bronx Times

A mystery is bubbling up on a tiny Pelham Bay street.

Residents along E. 197th Street and Hutchinson River Parkway are trying to figure out why water mains in five homes have burst within a span of two months.

The first incident happened on Christmas Eve of 2011 at the home of lifelong resident Anita Valenti. When she went to her basement to haul up the family’s artificial Christmas tree, she found herself knee-deep in water.

“It cost $4400 to fix,” said Valenti, who chairs the Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association.

She thought it was just an isolated incident until the next month when three other water mains burst: at a neighbor’s house, and another one in February along E. 197th Street burst.

Then early this month, the basement of Connie Fella’s home started experiencing minor flooding that forced her to replace her water main - at a cost of $5000.

“My husband said ‘This is strange’,” said Fella. “We’ve been living in the house for 22 years.”

Word of all the water main breaks spread around the neighborhood as quickly as the sewage water.

“For five homes to go, is too much of a coincidence,” said Valenti.

There is one possible reason being floated.

It could date back to the early 20th century when nearly all the homes on E. 197th Street were built, according to Department of Buildings records.

Valenti said the lead pipes were installed on wetlands, which was then covered by concrete.

That could pose a problem for homeowners, said Martin O’Grady, the plumber who made repairs for three of the four homes.

“When you lay down pipe on a marsh without some proper support underneath it, the pipe’s going to sag,” said O’Grady, who’s repaired water pipes for over 30 years.

Neighbor, Joseph Oddo, suspected the pipes could have ruptured because of recent work on a new 911 emergency call center by the Hutchinson River Parkway and E. 197th Street.

Oddo said the vibrations from piledrivers could have reverberated to the pipes, destabilizing them.

But O’Grady said there’s “not enough research” supporting Oddo’s theory.

Meanwhile, Valenti wants the city Water Board to adopt a Department of Environmental Protection proposal to provide flood insurance for homeowners who pay an extra $5 on their water bills.

As of deadline, the DEP press office did not respond for comment on the bubbling water main mystery.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or email dcruz@cnglocal.com.

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