Steam pipe rupture prompts evacuations, street closures

The steam pipe rupture scene (Boston Fire Department)
The steam pipe rupture scene (Boston Fire Department)

A large steam pipe rupture this morning in Chinatown prompted several business evacuations and forced the closure of a section of South Street as officials waited to determine whether asbestos was released, fire officials said.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of feet of steam line that run under the streets and for most of them, the insulation is not asbestos,” said Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department. “But there are a few old ones that still could have asbestos.”

Firefighters responded to the leak at 76 South St. at about 9:30 a.m., evacuated the building as a precaution, and began working to shut down the steam line. The line was shut off around 11 a.m., MacDonald said.

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South Street was closed between Beach Street and East Street.

Shortly after 2 p.m., the fire department said that initial tests had come back negative for asbestos. The street was expected to partially reopen with an area blocked off because it needed to be excavated to repair the pipe.

The fire department said at about 3:40 p.m. that all tests for asbestos had been negative and people had been allowed back in their offices.

No injuries were reported from the rupture, MacDonald said.