The Rapidian Home

Updated: Water main break in SE neighborhood floods homes, residents under water boil advisory

A water main break at Adams and Philadelphia Streets in Southeast Grand Rapids flooded homes. While the City works to isolate and repair the 24-inch main, 100-150 homes may soon face a water boil advisory.
Adams Street flooded after water main break on June 13, 2024

Adams Street flooded after water main break on June 13, 2024 /Allison Donahue

/City of Grand Rapids

water main break on June 13, 2024

water main break on June 13, 2024 /Allison Donahue

Updated, June 13, 2024 at 2:15 p.m, Water to the impacted area has been shut off. Once water is turned on, residents in this area should boil their water. According to a spokesperson from the City, residents in this area of Adams Street SE – Fuller Avenue SE to Cambridge Drive SE., Edward Avenue SE – Adams to Boston Street SE, Sylvan Avenue SE – Adams to Boston St., and Philadelphia Avenue SE – Adams to Boston do not have water service. (See map for more details)

Residents in a Southeast Grand Rapids neighborhood waded across the flooded street Thursday morning to check on their neighbors after a water main broke at the intersection of Adams Street and Philadelphia Avenue. 

According to Water System Manager Wayne Jernberg, homes in this neighborhood still have access to safe, running water from their tap as the City works to isolate the issue and shut down the transmission main. 

However, once the transmission main is shut down, the City estimates that 100-150 homes will be impacted by a loss in service, and those residents will be under a water boil advisory. 

Those customers who live outside of this area are not impacted by the boil water advisory, as that water is safe for use.

The Grand Rapids Water Department is actively responding to the water main break. Jernberg said crews have been responding to the 24-inch water main break since the first call was received around 4 a.m. Thursday.

“Unfortunately some of the local mains are tied directly into this transmission main and there are some houses that have services off, so it’s making it a bit more challenging to turn the water off,” Jerberg said during a Thursday morning press conference. “Plus it’s old infrastructure.”

The cause of the break is currently unknown, but Jernberg said because of the aged infrastructure it “could be a crack around a pipe, it could be a longitudinal split.” 

“You got to get the water shut off to see exactly what the failure of the pipe was and see exactly what we have to replace,” Jernberg said. “We haven’t been able to get down to the actual pipe yet because the water is still so active in the hole.”

City officials are asking residents to avoid the intersection of Adams Street and Philadelphia Avenue for the next week, as parts of the streets are blocked off or underwater.

Jernberg said he is hopeful they will be able to shut the water off sometime Thursday, but repairs will likely take a few days. 

Once the water is shut off and the water boil advisory is in place, the City must collect two consecutive clean samples, which involves a 48-hour wait period from when the first sample was drawn. A typical water advisory lasts 3-4 days to flush the system and sample according to State and Federal requirements.

Vanessa David, who lives on Philadelphia Avenue, discovered the flooding when her husband woke her up to tell her the basement was flooded and began scooping water out through a window. 

“I’m concerned that the water that’s in my house is contaminated just from flooding down the street,” David said. “But everything could be worse. I just hope insurance can cover this for the homes that get damaged. And as long as no one was hurt, everything could be worse, I guess.”

Jernberg said City staff will visit the impacted properties, inform them of their next steps for risk management and insurance and deliver a one-gallon jug of water to use during the water boil advisory.

In March, around 20,000 residents on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids were under a water boil advisory following a significant water main break in the vicinity of Leonard St. NE and Union Ave. NE that caused the City's pressure switches to alert and shut the pumps off. 

Replacing aging water infrastructure in Grand Rapids is part of the City’s Master Plan, but neither of the mains that broke this year were scheduled for repair in 2024. 

“It seems like these things are becoming more frequent. We have a really old system in this city and I think it’s not as reliable as people assume,” said one neighborhood resident, Jordan Newman, whose house sits on top of the hill, safe from the flooding. 

Newman said the water was shut off in his neighborhood about a year prior due to service being done nearby and he stocked up on jugs of water then. 

“Some might call it prepping, but it seems like it’s necessary at this point,” Newman said. 

In December 2023, the Grand Rapids City Commission approved increasing the cost of water and sewer in 2024 by 3.68%—the average resident will pay about $9 more—to pay for the cost of water main repairs across the city. 

Jernberg said the city has over 1,300 miles of water main in its system, adding, “we’ve got pipes that are older than this.”

What makes this water main break different from the one in March is that the pump station is able to continue operating and working around this break, which allows the water pressure to stay relatively consistent and the water to remain safe to use. 

While fewer residents are impacted by this main break than the one in March, the flooding is more significant and City staff are having a more difficult time isolating the damage. 

Jernberg estimates it has been around 10-15 years since Grand Rapids experienced a big break like this on a transmission main.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.