Residents and businesses in parts of southern Prince George’s County kept pots of water on stovetops Wednesday after suburban Maryland’s water utility issued a boil-water advisory to ward off possible contamination following a water main break.
People in about 10,000 homes and businesses in Accokeek and parts of Fort Washington and Piscataway were told to boil their tap water before drinking it, preparing food, making ice, serving to pets or washing dishes by hand. The area affected is east of Indian Head Highway, west of Piscataway Road and south of Palmer Road down to the Charles County line.
Officials for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) said the advisory could remain in effect for 48 hours after the main is repaired to allow time for mandatory water sampling. As of mid-day Wednesday, crews were still searching for the exact location of the break, which is believed to be in Piscataway Creek, officials said.
The general area of the 12-inch main has been isolated, so no customers were left without water, said WSSC spokeswoman Lyn Riggins.
Water should be brought to a rolling boil for one minute and cooled before using, WSSC officials said.
“I’m boiling water as we speak,” said Laurie Walsh, as she took a quick phone break while tending a full bar at the B&G Tavern in Accokeek. “I’ve been keeping the pots on the stove all day.”
Walsh, who said her husband works for WSSC, said the restaurant brought in extra bottled water to serve and use in making coffee.
Nearby, Christina Chen said she came to work at her restaurant, Eastern Restaurant, two hours early Wednesday to make sure she had enough boiled water on hand. She said she spent the day heating water in the two large containers she also uses for cooking rice. It took 1 1/2 hours for each pot to cool down enough to use, she said.
“I’m boiling water all the time,” Chen said. “If this is too many days, I can’t do it, but for 48 hours I’ll be okay. I don’t want my customers to have any problems.”
WSSC officials said they issued the advisory as a precaution after heavy rains Tuesday night delayed repairs on the broken main, which increased the risk of contamination after it caused part of the water system to lose pressure. The 44-year-old pipe is in a wooded area that crosses Piscataway Creek near Windbrook Drive.
WSSC’s Web site has an interactive map that shows whether a particular address is in the affected area. People who lost water Tuesday night are not in the boil-water zone, WSSC officials said.
In separate incidents, WSSC also had three sewer overflows in Prince George’s on Tuesday related to the heavy rain. A total of about 904,000 gallons of untreated sewage spilled from three wastewater pumping stations in Fort Washington, officials said. Because the sewer and water systems are separate, the sewer overflows did not affect drinking water, WSSC officials said.
The wastewater pumping stations that overflowed are at 10315 Livingston Rd., 11326 Fort Washington Rd., and 12800 Monroe Ave.
Like many other utilities nationwide, WSSC is under a court order to reduce the number of sewage spills into creeks and rivers. WSSC officials said they have notified state and local environmental agencies and will clean up the affected areas.