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WSSC still searching for ways to deal with growing water main break problem


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Published on: Thursday, March 28, 2013

By Holden Wilen

There have been 565 water main breaks in fiscal year 2013, and an average of 1,596 breaks since 2006 according to data from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission,

There was a high of 2,095 breaks in 2010, and a low of 1,573 breaks in 2011. According to Jim Neustadt, director of communications and community relations for WSSC, the most problematic pipes are the prestressed concrete cylinder pipes (PCCP) used in transmission lines.

The PCCP pipe is the type which broke on March 18 in Chevy Chase and resulted in the loss of more than 60 million gallons of water. Other major breaks include:

•    On Dec. 1, 2003, a 60-inch PCCP water main near Palatine Drive and Piney Meetinghouse Road failed. The break caused a 35-foot wide crater and debris was thrown 115 feet away.

•    A 66-inch water main broke on River Road in Bethesda on Dec. 23, 2008 resulting in the loss of more than 150,000 gallons of water per minute.

•    On Jan. 24, 2011, a 54-inch PCCP water main failed at East Hampton Road in Capital Heights. The break caused the closure of the inner loop of the Capital Beltway in Prince George’s County due to flooding and freezing conditions. According to a WSSC report an adjacent office park building was damaged, chunks of asphalt were strewn across the parking lot and three cars filled with water.

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