Hoping for Fewer Water Disruptions, City Opens Valves on Ancient Pipe

In an effort to strengthen the reliability of the the city's water supply network, a 136-year-old cast iron water pipe, which runs underneath Madison Avenue, has been put back into service. The pipe was first laid in 1870 and had been out of service for the last 30 years.

The city's Department of Environmental Protection repaired more than 10,000 feet of the old four-foot wide pipes by inserting a compressed plastic lining into it. This is part of a larger plan to improve water distribution from East 40th Street to East 55th Street.

The project cost $15.6 million and uses a new technology that allows the DEP to repair the line without digging up Madison Avenue. The high-tech lining expands to fit inside of the pipe once the high-pressure water flow is turned back on.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway says while the new method won't be a panacea for all of New York's aging water mains, it was lucky it was available for one of Manhattan's busiest thoroughfares.

“If we had had to trench two miles of Madison Avenue to make this replacement, there would have been a lot more headaches for everybody,” Holloway says.

The repaired pipe will forestall potential disruptions of water service on the East Side caused by the construction of the Second Avenue subway.

Before the repair, the city was forced to rely almost exclusively on a Fifth Avenue water main that had burst three times in the last 11 years.