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CBS New York Investigates: Expert says Times Square water main break is a further indication of NYC's aging infrastructure

CBS New York investigates the city's aging infrastructure
CBS New York investigates the city's aging infrastructure 02:14

NEW YORK -- The pipe that broke in Midtown on Tuesday was more than 120 years old.

The water main break is putting a spotlight on a major issue across the country: aging infrastructure.

There are more than 6,800 miles of water mains in New York City. That's enough to stretch to Los Angeles and back, and then some.

On average, at least one water main breaks every day in New York City.

The pipe that broke in Midtown was more than 120 years old, disrupting the commute for thousands.

"This is simply emblematic of a larger problem this country is facing with aging infrastructure," said Debra Laefer, a professor at NYU.

READ MORESubways reopen, street repairs underway after major water main break floods Times Square

In fiscal year 2023, the city says it responded to 402 breaks -- the second-lowest total on record, according to the city Department of Environmental Protection.

During that same time frame, the city invested $769 million in new sewers and water mains.

"Aging infrastructure is not always bad. They built stuff to last 120 some-odd years ago, and it did its job for 125 years," DEP Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala said.

READ MOREWater main break floods homes and brings down brick wall in Morris Heights

The DEP says New York City fares better than other cities when it comes to water main breaks. A spokesperson told CBS New York big cities across the U.S. average 25 breaks for every 100 miles of water mains.

New York City averages five breaks per 100 miles.

"This happens into big towns, little towns on the East Coast, the West Coast. This country is, you know, over 200 years old, and cities like New York are over 300," Laefer said.

Professor Laefer went on to say when it comes to dealing with aging pipes, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed in 2021 is a great start.

But it's just a start.

Officials said they are investigating the cause of the break.

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