Safety Concerns Raised About Ongoing Water Leak on Subway Concourse

Water has been flowing from the ceiling of a Center City subway concourse for more than a month

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Thursday, Mar 13, 2014)

    Water flowing from above and crumbling wall tiles on a Philadelphia subway concourse have a local commuter group raising concerns about safety.

    Since late January, water has been steadily leaking from the ceiling above the east corner of the transit concourse under Broad Street near Sansom Street. The concourse, which is owned by the City of Philadelphia, connects SEPTA’s Broad Street Subway, Market-Frankford El and the PATCO High-Speed Line.

    A video posted to the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers Facebook page on January 26 shows the water falling, part of the ceiling missing and ‘danger’ tape telling riders to avoid the area.

    "It was just this cascade of water coming down and even more worrisome was that it looked like there were numerous tiles missing. So it looked like this leak was not just confined to the area where there was yellow tape, it looked like there was damage being caused elsewhere," said Andy Sharpe, the organization’s communications director. The group has been around since 1971 and advocates for passenger’s rights on the region’s rail lines.

    Sharpe says he reached out to the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) to alert them of the issue and was told officials asked the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) to fix the leak.

    However, a month later, on February 26, the water was still flowing. Sharpe snapped a still photo of more tiles missing from the wall. Officials said they were indeed working on the issue, but were having trouble locating the leak.

    Earlier this week, NBC10.com went to the concourse to investigate the issue. The water was still flowing – not only from the holes in the ceiling, but also into an adjacent room. Several feet away, sheets of tile were separating from the wall, tiles had fallen away and pieces of the wall behind had crumbled to the floor.

    "There is a little bit of a safety issue, but even more so we’re concerned about the integrity of the concourse. When you’ve got that much water raining down from the ceiling, you worry about the effects," Sharpe said. “If you continue to have the volume of water coming down, it’s not hard to imagine that there is lasting damage.”

    NBC10.com reached out to city officials, asking why it was taking crews so long to find the leak. Andrew Stober, MOTU’s Chief of Staff, said the water department has been performing surveys to try and find the water source.

    “For the past few months the Water Department has been tracking down an elusive leak, but so far have had no luck finding it,” he said. “The most recent leak survey was performed last week. PWD is evaluating performing a test shut down of some mains which requires coordination with businesses and customers.”

    Asked whether officials have concerns about the structural integrity of the concourse due to the ongoing leak, Stober said officials believe the damage is superficial.

    “It looks dramatic because there was an escalator there at some point in the past and when it was removed a false ceiling was installed. That ceiling came down with the leak,” he said.

    While the city currently handles maintenance for the concourse, which stretches several city blocks from City Hall to Walnut Street, they hope to soon transfer the responsibility to SEPTA.

    SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams says while there’s no firm date as to when the transit authority would take over control of the underground concourse, their engineers are already putting together an action plan to address problems like this leak.

    “We’re already reviewing issues and making ourselves familiar with projects,” she said. “We’re partnering together with the city to address this issue and help to resolve it.”

    Williams said SEPTA engineers have also done an inspection of the area and are also working with PWD.

    But after several months of waiting, Sharpe feels there’s not a sense of urgency to address the problem which not only could be unsafe, but is an eyesore.

    “It’s like the broken window theory. When you let a situation like a leak continue unabated, gradually other things go downhill,” he said. “Beyond the safety, it just goes to show that the concourse is being neglected.”


    Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.