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Service restored to Comm. Ave. area after water main break

A crew worked to repair a water main break at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Exeter Street in Boston on Tuesday.
A crew worked to repair a water main break at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Exeter Street in Boston on Tuesday. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)

Water service was restored to a Back Bay neighborhood early Tuesday afternoon, hours after a 144-year-old cast iron pipe ruptured, flooding part of Commonwealth Avenue and forcing the evacuation of at least two buildings.

Boston Water and Sewer Commission spokesman Thomas Bagley said a 2-foot section of a 16-inch water main dating back to 1875 at the intersection of Exeter Street and Commonwealth Avenue ruptured around 8:30 p.m. Monday.

Water flowed for 90 minutes before crews were able to shut it off, he said. The pipe underwent repairs in 1996, Bagley said.

Commonwealth Avenue was closed Tuesday between Exeter and Dartmouth streets while commission crews worked to isolate the broken section, repair the pipe, and then restore service to the 13 buildings on the inbound side of Commonwealth Avenue on the same block, officials said.

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The Water and Sewer Commission tweeted around 1:30 p.m. that “water services have been restored and [are] safe to use. If water is discolored, run your tap for a few minutes until water is clear before using.”

Bagley said in a follow-up interview that National Grid had work to do at the scene Tuesday before the sinkhole could be filled. The roadway should be fine for the Wednesday morning commute, he said.

The cause of the water main break remains under investigation. Food establishments affected by the break were inspected and allowed to reopen, the city said. According to Bagley, two buildings, at 190 and 192 Commonwealth Ave., suffered water damage connected to the water main break. A third may also have experienced flooding, he said.

Doug Montgomery was working inside the basement apartment at 195 Commonwealth Ave. on Tuesday. A pair of orange RIDGID air movers were at the top of the stairs leading to the apartment. Montgomery is a foreman in the facilities department of the Copley Group, which owns the building.

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“Last night, they got all the water out,” he said. Now they were setting up heavy-duty blowers to help dry everything out. The wooden floors might be a total loss, he said. Adjusters will probably have to come out to assess the damage.

David Ginty, 56, lives on Commonwealth Avenue near the intersection of Exeter. He was on his way home Monday night when he noticed water erupting in the middle of the road.

“I was coming home from dinner, it was kind of late, and water started coming up slowly from one of the drainage pipes, then faster and faster, and all of sudden the middle of the road just exploded,” Ginty said.

“It started gushing up into the air like a geyser,” he said. “It was pretty impressive.” Ginty immediately called 911.


Travis Andersen and Danny McDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.