Carrick neighborhood recovering from break in water main

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

The floor of James O'Keefe's basement bedroom was cold and wet on Thursday morning.

A cleanup crew removed the carpet and filled three large trash bags with wet clothes from the laundry room in the Carrick house he shares with his family.

“It sat in muddy water too long,” said O'Keefe, 49, whose home was one of six that were damaged on Wednesday afternoon when a water main broke underground in the 1600 block of Concordia Street.

Icy water flooded basements, first floors and yards, displacing families in two homes.

About 35 Pennsylvania American Water customers were left without service until 4:30 a.m. Thursday, spokesman Gary Lobaugh said.

Carnegie-based Disaster Restoration Services cleaned up O'Keefe's basement and yard. The company is surveying damage in the neighborhood, cleaning debris from homes and yards, checking furnaces and itemizing loss claims that will be given to the water company's insurer.

“We'll replace or repair anything that was damaged as a result of the water main break (Wednesday),” Lobaugh said.

Will Brunick is counting on it.

Brunick said he proposed to Danielle Miller on Christmas Eve, but Miller's engagement ring slipped off her finger on Wednesday in fast-rolling water while the two fervently worked beside their Concordia Street home to move their children's toys out of the path of water. Brunick, 33, said the couple doesn't have renter's insurance.

The ring, which had not been sized, could not be found, said Miller, 36.

“I can't even describe what I saw (Wednesday). I never saw anything like that in my life. It was like Raging Rapids at Kennywood,” she said.

On Wednesday, water from the broken pipes poured through the front door and into heating vents of the Concordia Street home that Ashley Buckholtz shares with her three children, her mother and her mother's fiance, she said.

“My kids were freaking out. I wasn't scared. I was worried about my stuff getting ruined,” Buckholtz, 26, said on Thursday.

The family, excluding her mother's fiance, stayed in a hotel room paid for by Pennsylvania American Water on Wednesday and Thursday, she said.

The company has replaced the home's hot water tank and fixed the furnace, and it will wash or replace the family's soaked clothes, she said.

“They're cleaning everything up,” Buckholtz said. The family doesn't have renter's insurance.

A Pennsylvania American Water contractor is doing street repairs in the Concordia Street area, Lobaugh said.

Breaks occur when the ground around buried water mains contracts, expands and shifts as it freezes and thaws, straining and breaking buried pipes weakened by age and the weight of buildings and the traffic 4 to 6 feet above them.

The Pittsburgh region contended with subzero temperatures this week.

The age of the pipe under Concordia Street — it was at least 70 years old — and cold weather contributed to the break. Pennsylvania American Water officials said they've had nine breaks since Monday, no more than usual.

Pennsylvania American serves customers in 36 counties, including 215,000 customers in Allegheny and northern Washington counties, he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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