Pipe dreams! New Bay Ridge sinkhole reminds residents to show their sewer lines some love

Brooklyn Daily
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You too can help prevent sinkholes!

Leaky pipes have ruptured two southern Brooklyn streets in recent weeks, and local officials say they are a giant gaping reminder that residents must sink some cash into sewer and tap-line insurance now so they don’t end up paying the price of repairing them — and the hassle of giant craters in their roads — in the future.

“Get the insurance so you’re not hesitant to get work done if you need it, because it can be a costly, costly expense,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). “This could keep happening more and more as the pipes and systems become older and older.”

A massive asphalt aperture tore through on 79th Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Bay Ridge on March 12 — just weeks after two separate ruptured lines created a sinkhole on 56th Street in Sunset Park.

Gentile drove over the latest sinkhole himself before it completely collapsed, and called police to cordon off the area that afternoon — possibly averting further disaster, as no cars or people were ultimately damaged by the depression.

But many still suffered — utility workers shut down gas, water, and electricity to residents on the block, and didn’t turn them back on until 11 pm that night. Transportation workers had largely filled the puncture back up by 8 am the next morning.

Homeowners are responsible for maintaining the tap-water and sewer lines from their property out to the city’s main underneath their street, and a leak or break can cost thousands of dollars to fix.

The Department of Environmental Protection offers an insurance service through American Water Resources that customers can tack on to their monthly bill, and will then provide repairs in the event of a disaster like a sinkhole. Fixing a broken water line can otherwise set a homeowner back $5,000 and replacing one costs around $8,000, a department spokesman said, but added that regular inspections can help prevent a sinkhole from happening in the first place.

“Property owners are encouraged to ask their plumber to periodically inspect their service lines for damage or signs of deteriorat­ion,” he said.

But even the most conscientious citizen sewer stewards can’t thwart sinkholes completely — a 20-foot-wide sinkhole opened on the same Bay Ridge block in 2012, but that was the due to a broken sewer main, which is the city’s responsibility.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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