A 72-inch water main break is wreaking havoc in New Jersey’s largest city and nearby communities Tuesday, with hospitals forced to divert some high-risk patients and the Newark Board of Education declaring a citywide water emergency as crews respond to a vehicle submerged in a sinkhole, according to officials.
The pipe broke in Branch Brook Park on the border of Newark and neighboring Belleville around 8 a.m., Anthony Iacono, Belleville township manager, said. That led to some initial confusion about the origin of the break. By 9:15 a.m., it still wasn’t clear how many separate water lines could be affected or how many breaks there might be.
It appeared there were two — the primary problem in Branch Brook Park on Mill Street and a secondary break on Joralemon Street, also in Belleville, fire officials said. Fire officials were working to supply pressure.
The entirety of Belleville was without water or had low pressure and most of Newark — specifically the North, West, South and Central Wards, grappled similarly, according to officials. A boil water advisory is in effect for both communities, and Newark says it will go door-to-door handing out water. Multiple hospitals are affected. Some were diverting patients or water or both.
Footage provided by Belleville’s mayor showed a vehicle tire sticking out of muddy water. It wasn’t clear if it was occupied at the time of the flood or whether the person had to be rescued.
“Under an abundance of caution, we are advising residents impacted by the water main break to boil their tap water until further notice. See previous posts for additional information,” Belleville officials wrote on Facebook.
Both Belleville and Newark water departments are working to contain the problem, officials said. The Newark Office of Emergency Management is asking neighboring cities for help to supply water tankers while repairs are being made.
With a vast majority of the area out of water completely or enduring low pressure, the Newark Board of Education declared a “citywide water emergency” and canceled all after-summer-school programs for the day.
Chopper 4 showed pooling water by a bridge on Branch Brook Park Drive as vehicle backups began to develop around 8:15 a.m. A river does run alongside the road, but it’s not supposed to look like it did on Tuesday.
Water was seen gushing from what appeared to be a gaping hole in the middle of the road.
A short aerial trip away, people were seen standing in ankle-to-knee high water in Belleville by Mill Street, where the break happened. It wasn’t clear when officials expected to have a timeline for full restoration or even whether they had isolated and contained the problem by mid-morning.
Newark is served by two upstream reservoirs, though it’s not clear if they serve the city by separate water mains.
The investigation is ongoing.
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