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Rupture in Water Line Brings Misery to Much of Montgomery

Video
A water main break at the Meadowside Nature Center in Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville, Md., has affected nearly every resident in Montgomery County and prompted restrictions. Video by Preston Keres/The Washington PostEditor: Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.com

Officials said the pipe was installed about 40 years ago, so it is not particularly old; the system has pipes twice that age. Still, engineers said the break was a sign that maintenance and upgrades are not keeping pace with an aging, overtaxed infrastructure.

Officials at the WSSC, which operates water and sewer systems in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, have long said they need more money to inspect and replace pipes.

The WSSC's pipes had a record 2,129 breaks last year. This coming year, the WSSC expects to replace 78 miles of water and sewer pipes, a tiny fraction of the nearly 11,000 miles of pipe in the system.

"We need to step that up," said Lyn Riggins, a spokesman for the commission.

Whatever caused the pipe to rupture, many residents said they were frustrated by the latest public works breakdown.

"You'd think we were in Baghdad, no power and now no water," said Charles Schoman, a resident of the senior living community Leisure World and one of thousands of county residents who lost power after severe thunderstorms two weeks ago.

Officials canceled activities in schools and libraries. Dentist's offices canceled appointments, and several dialysis centers turned away patients, referring them to other centers or emergency rooms. Adventist Dialysis Services in Silver Spring sent clients to Washington Adventist Hospital a few miles south, outside of the affected area.

Also disruptive for many families was the closure of county recreation centers, swimming pools and day camps. Working parents who thought they had arranged a seamless shift from Friday's last day of school to yesterday's first day of camp were left to make on-the-fly arrangements.

Some scrambled to schedule play dates with in-laws and neighbors, but for many, it turned into an unplanned take-your-child-to-work day.

"There are a lot of attorneys walking around with their kids today," said Neil Jacobs, a Rockville lawyer who spent the morning at the county courthouse.

Some families went on impromptu field trips to see the source of all the trouble. Martin Franke of Rockville, whose Flower Valley home had low water pressure, took his 4-year-old son, Lucas, there after Lucas's day camp was canceled.

"The water that usually comes to our house is out here, right?" he asked his son.


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