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WSSC battles “unusual” number of water main breaks

  • Published in Local

WSSC LogoWashington Suburban Sanitary Commission members on Wednesday approved $12 million in funding to deal with the “unusual” number and pace of water mains breaks in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties this winter, which have put both jurisdictions on course to see a record number this winter.

“It is absolutely an unusual a high number of breaks,” said Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission spokesman Jerry Irvine. At least 1000 water mains across both counties have ruptured since Dec. 1, at great inconvenience not only to WSSC customers but to the repair crews who have had to remain on call for 24 hours.

The pace at which mains are breaking puts the area on course for a total much higher than the usual average of 1,200 breaks between December and March. WSSC saw an average of 100 breaks a day at the peak of the cold snap that gripped the area from late December through early January. But according to Irvine, as temperatures have warmed slightly the number of breaks per day is back down to the “more reasonable” 35 per day, because the number of breaks tends to level off when temperature remains constant and there are not rapid changes in temperature.

“Once the system has been shocked by the original blast of cold water we're kind of steady state,” he said.

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Cold weather brings breaks

  • Published in Local

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said unusually cold temperatures has caused 79 water main breaks in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Because of the water main breaks, water has been cut off to parts of Prince George’s County including to parts of Temple Hills, Suitland, Camp Springs, Oxon Hill and Hyattsville. While water service has not been cut off to Montgomery County, there are still 40 water main breaks in the County.

“It’s to be expected,” said WSSC spokesperson Luis Maya about the freezing temperature causing a significant amount of water main breaks.

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Public weighs on WSSC rate structure

  • Published in Local

WSSC LogoROCKVILLE – County residents weighed in on proposed changes to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s rate structure during a public hearing Oct. 19.

In March, members of the Maryland Public Service Commission ruled that WSSC’s rate structure unfairly discriminated against larger households, requiring the water utility to changes its rate structure.

WSSC has held public hearings on five proposed rate structures since the PSC’s ruling in seven months ago. The PSC held a public hearing on two of the five proposed rate structures. Three of the five options would increase the bill of the average WSSC customer, which is currently $205 a quarter for 165 gallons a day of water used. Option 3B and Option 4A would lower the water/sewer bill for residential customers using 165 gallons per day.

WSSC vice chairperson T. Eloise Foster said WSSC officials scheduled the public hearings as a way for the public to give feedback on the proposed changes in the rate structures.

“It was really clear to us from these meetings that we need to do a better job of building trust with our customers,” Foster said.

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Two wastewater overflows occur on WSSC property

  • Published in State

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission officials said tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater spilled each in two separate instances near an Upper Marlboro wastewater treatment plant Saturday.

WSSC crews placed warning signs at the sites of two separate overflows that occurred near the Western Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant in Upper Marlboro Saturday.

“We posted signs at both sites, and we cleaned the affected area (s),” WSSC spokesperson Ayoka Blandford said.

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Council questions WSSC rate structure change

  • Published in Local

LAUREL – A change in county water bills is almost certainly coming, but exactly how much more (or less) residents will pay is still to be determined.

On March 30, the Prince George’s County Council Transportation, Housing and Environment Committee (THE) held a joint meeting with their counterpart from the Montgomery County Council, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) committee to hear from Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission staff about progress on the utility’s rate structure study. WSSC has to change the rate structure to remain financially viable, officials say.

“There’s always this tension between having enough revenue to meet the needs for providing the services, both water and sewer, but also on the capital side,” said Council member Todd Turner, chair of THE. “People are consuming less water, so because the revenues aren’t coming in because of the consumption, what are you going to do? Unfortunately, nothing goes down in cost, it seems like, so in making that (increase) reasonable, there’s a balance that we have to find as part of this process.”

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Gaithersburg gets legislative update

  • Published in Local

Gaithersburg Govt logo

GAITHERSBURG—Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council were briefed Monday night about several issues of concern to the city in the current state legislative session. Monica Marquina, the city’s legislative affairs director, and Rob Garagiola, of the lobbying firm Alexander and Cleaver, which represents Gaithersburg, discussed their efforts working with the legislature thus far and their goals for the remaining third of the session where, Garagiola said, “90 percent of the work is still ahead.”

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Public weighs in on WSSC rates

  • Published in Local

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ROCKVILLE – Last week was one of the final chances for the public to weigh in on the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission proposed rate increase for water.

As part of its proposed Fiscal Year $1.4 billion 2018 budget, WSSC plans to raise water and sewer rates by 3.5 percent. The budget covers both operating and capital costs. The increase would add an additional $1.46 to the monthly bill of the average WSSC ratepayer who uses 137 gallons of water per day.

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Unknown chemicals may pose water supply risk

  • Published in Local

As it turns out, the old adage may be right – what you don’t know can harm you.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates 83 contaminants as part of its primary standard on drinking water.

These contaminants include lead, trihalomethanes, asbestos, bacteria and viruses, which if above a certain level, are a risk to human health.

But the EPA also has another list of 30 contaminants that agency monitors but does not regulate.

For many of these contaminants the science is unclear whether they are a health risk to people, while others clearly pose a risk to people.

“The only concern is something we don’t already know, that just started coming up in the newspaper and we don’t know how to test for it or something some people may say it’s bad, but we don’t know whether it’s really bad,” said Jin Shin a water quality manager at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), the primary water utility for people in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.

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County Council weighs in on WSSC infrastructure

  • Published in Local

With 1,800 breaks a year on average in the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission's (WSSC) infrastructure system, members of the Montgomery County Council said there needs to be more investment in the utility’s infrastructure.

WSSC’s water mains and pipes are often susceptible to breaks. About 25 percent of WSSC’s water mains are 50 years are older.

To keep sediment and other containments out of the water mains, WSSC pumps water at a high pressure.

“I kind of look at it as the Metro of water,” said Council member Marc Elrich (D-At large).

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"Disaster Waiting To Happen"

  • Published in Local

"Water Supply Challenges" Part Four of Five: Water infrastructure challenged by lack of spending and low utility rates

Faucet Running Water

More than 1,800 water mains throughout the Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission system are breaking annually, according to WSSC spokesperson Jerry Irvine.

Meanwhile, a six-month investigation by The Sentinel Newspapers revealed a number of containments in city water, well water and surface water at 50 sites throughout Montgomery County and Prince George’s counties.

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