As Greenwich Village residents deal with another water main break this winter, the city says the number of breaks has been dropping over the last few years.
The water main that broke on Greenwich and Clarkson streets in the West Village Tuesday was from 1870. Old infrastructure has been common among the recent water main breaks, including one at East 13th Street and Fifth Avenue earlier this month.
"It was very difficult," said Bruce Schreiber, who runs C.O. Bigelow, the oldest pharmacy in the country located in the neighborhood. His landlines were down for nearly a week after the Jan. 15 break.
"We were all on cell phones here," he said.
The aging pipes are more vulnerable to breaks, especially given the extreme weather this winter.
"When the soil is saturated with the water, the water particles tend to expand, causing the soil to expand, putting a lot of pressure on water mains," said David Koysman, a senior infrastructure engineer with Buro Happold.
"It's impossible to say how many will break, but we could expect more to happen," he said, adding that the older water mains tend to corrode.
The Department of Environmental Protection says the number of water main breaks has been dropping since 2007, when an aggressive program was implemented. That year, there were 579 breaks. In 2013, there were 452 breaks.
The DEC also says the industry average is 23 to 25 breaks per 100 miles annually; in New York City in 2012, the average was 6 breaks for every 100 miles of pipe -- and there are 7,000 miles stretching through all five boroughs.