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Thar she blows!

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Published on: Thursday, March 21, 2013

By Brian J. Karem

Quick. What’s worse than relying on Pepco to keep the power on during a nice sunny, breezeless day?

That’s right. It’s expecting the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission to keep the water on during that same breezeless day.

The latest fiasco facing the feckless WSSC occurred this week when a huge water main break in Chevy Chase sent water spewing as high as four stories in the air and then washed out a sizable chunk of road into a nearby creek.

Traffic on Connecticut Avenue came to a blistering stop during rush hour as both sides of the road were closed for several hours. Morning rush hour all over the county slowed to a creep as workmen struggled to shut off the water and quickly rebuild the road.

A spokesman said more than 60 million gallons, or about a third of what we use a day went cascading into the nearby Rock Creek tributary which undoubtedly slaked the thirst of the local minnows and provided some Class 3 rapids for awhile if there were any enthusiastic white water rafters in the area.

For the rest of us it means mandatory water restrictions for about a week, according to the same WSSC spokesman as the water company attempts to rebuild its stock of fresh water.

This is far from the first time in the last few years WSSC has dealt with massive failures in its water delivery system.

A River Road blow out in the recent past left EMS personnel rescuing people from their cars as the roadway transformed to some strange parody of the rapids in the Colorado River.

There have been other, less dramatic but equally frustrating failures of the water pipes during the last few years due to “aging infrastructure” and maybe perhaps from WSSC purchasing its water pipes after they fell off a truck somewhere in New Jersey.

Just kidding.

But there’s no kidding about the lack of infrastructure in Montgomery County.

At this point the only utility company I even remotely trust is Washington Gas. I’m crossing my fingers as I say this because I don’t want to curse them and suddenly watch hot water heaters and furnaces fail or worse, watch homes dematerialize all over the county.

The Third World conditions in Montgomery County would be laughable if it weren’t so frustrating and sad.

We live in one of the richest counties in the country, and therefore one of the richest in the world. We pay taxes that make many weep and a growing number flee the area.

We’re not the friendliest when it comes to new businesses or established small businesses.

We demand everyone to “Go Green” and we talk about how progressive we are while our streets are a shoddy shambles. There are streets in many upscale subdivisions which resemble patch work quilts.

Main arteries have large potholes, narrow shoulders and bus stops seemingly built to torture the commuter.

We’ve been asked to pay more taxes and the governor is proposing an increase in gas taxes.

Our streets sometimes resemble Old Faithful geyser while our electricity delivery resembles turn of the century rural Texas – and I mean turn of the 19th Century.

I’m supposed to take shorter showers, plan more time for my commute, do without electricity when that fails and this all leads me to a very pointed question: Why in the Hell does anyone still live here?

I’m stuck because I love my job and I have one last son in high school.

But those who are in power have to realize I’m not the only one asking this question.

It’s tough to operate a business here as small businesses are nothing more than defacto tax collectors for every taxing entity in the state.

The cost of living is higher here than in most areas of the country. The traffic is abominable and while the restaurants and entertainment are nice, those of moderate income can rarely afford the cost of these diversions.

At the very least if people are to stay around here it would be nice if the power stayed on and the roads didn’t wash away because the utility companies trusted to provide us service and power paid attention to the infrastructure before it all collapsed.

So far we’ve been very lucky. The infrastructure may have failed us, but fatalities haven’t been massive. That, of course, can change. Shudder.

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