Central New York, Community, Syracuse

City of Syracuse Working to Prioritize Pipe Replacement, Water Main Breaks Remain Issue

Common Councilor Chad Ryan tells NCC News Syracuse's plan to replace its piping and why the 750 million dollar project might never be finished. (c)2018 Dan Byford

Video Transcript:

By Dan Byford SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS)– In 2015, the estimated cost to replace all the pipes in Syracuse was upwards of  $700 million, while that number may seem staggering, Common Councilor Chad Ryan, who chairs the Public Works committee says that repairing each pipe costs even more per foot.

“[The Department of Public Works and the Water Department] [have] had plenty of nights where they get up, they dig down, they fix a pipe, it goes six feet and it breaks,” said Ryan “they’ll be there 20 or 30 hours trying to fix the same 30 or forty feet of pipe so the cost is exorbitant when they have to do that… a lot of the money we spend re-doing is just emergency calls.”

“Emergency calls” were a big issue last year according to D.P.W. Deputy Commissioner Ann Fordock. There were 145 water main breaks repaired in the last year according to a written statement she submitted to NCC News.

The city is using technology to prioritize which pipes should be replaced earliest to try to combat pipe bursts. Sensors are being used to detect which pipes need the most attention according to Fordock.

The sensors aren’t a perfect solution to bursts though, in December the parking lot at Leigh-Dale Specialties was transformed into a skating rink over night after a pipe burst flooded the area.

Burst pipes can close roads and cut businesses off from water but Councilor Ryan says it’s something that business owners have to live with.

“It definitely has significant economic impact,” Ryan said, “[but] I think most people understand in our city that that stuff comes with the territory.”

Councilor Ryan says there’s no end in sight for emergency pipe repairs, but is encouraged by Mayor Ben Walsh’s focus on the issue.

“This administration is doing a better job trying to get out in front of it,” Ryan said, “the water system will need to be addressed more intensively but unfortunately forever.”

  • Click here to see the full interactive map the city had on water main bursts, as well as all of the data in more detail
  • Members of the Common Council are trying to find a way the city can invest profits from the Syracuse Water Department back into the water system instead of general budget expenses
  • Mayor Ben Walsh proposed his first budget earlier this month, it can be viewed here and can give an in depth look into his administration’s plan for Syracuse’s network of pipes.


Leigh-Dale Specialties, the site where a December pipe flood resulted in four inches of ice in the parking lot. (c) 2018 Dan Byford

A map detailing water main breaks in Syracuse. Retrieved from data.syr.gov