WSSC awaits final test results before ending water advisory

January 27, 2011

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission received results Wednesday on the first tests done to determine whether tap water is safe to drink in a large part of Prince George's County, but utility officials said they wouldn't release the results until final testing is done Thursday.

WSSC spokesman Jim Neustadt said the utility wants the 400,000 people in the affected area to continue to boil all drinking water until "definitive results" are available.

Businesses and residences south of Central Avenue and Landover Road have been under a boil-water advisory since Monday, when a major water pipe burst in Capitol Heights. WSSC officials said the advisory is a precaution because contaminants can seep into the system more easily when a major pipe break causes a pressure loss.

"We don't have definitive results yet," Neustadt said, "so we don't want to put out anything that might confuse customers."

Neustadt said the WSSC has released early test results during previous advisories but found that some people stopped boiling their water prematurely. State regulations require clean results from two consecutive tests before a boil-water advisory can be lifted, he said.

Results from each round of testing take 18 hours, he said. With the second round of 20 samples being taken Wednesday, final results should be available Thursday, officials said.

Water for drinking, ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth and food preparation should be brought to a rolling boil for one minute and cooled, WSSC officials said. The order also applies to water used by pets.

Residents who lost power in the snowstorm and can't use their stoves or microwaves should use bottled water, Neustadt said. Tap water is safe for showers and hand-washing, he said.

shaverk@washpost.com

Katherine Shaver is a transportation and development reporter. She joined The Washington Post in 1997 and has covered crime, courts, education and local government but most prefers writing about how people get — or don’t get — around the Washington region.
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