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Rupture in Water Line Brings Misery to Much of Montgomery

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/

The WSSC tries to inspect pipes of 48-inch diameter and larger in the hopes of heading off major disruptions, said Mike Porter, a maintenance official for northern Montgomery. It is unclear whether the specific section of pipe that ruptured had ever been inspected, he said.

Porter said part of the same line was inspected about five years ago using a method that for the WSSC was experimental at the time: Sending microphones into the line while water was still running inside.

The microphones indicated a possible weakness in one section about a mile from where the break occurred, Porter said. Workers dug to that section, but found the pipe in good condition, he said.

Asked yesterday whether, in hindsight, inspectors should have done anything differently, Porter remarked, "I'd say, in hindsight, we needed to do a better job of making both customers and politicians aware of the need to improve infrastructure."

In February, WSSC commissioners approved an 8 percent rate increase to take effect next month. The board rejected a plan by agency administrators to add a surcharge to water bills to fund a major inspection and upgrade program. The surcharge would have added about $20 a month to typical bills.

Andrew D. Brunhart, then the WSSC's general manager, told the governing board at the time that without more money for infrastructure improvements, he would recommend dropping the words "entrusted," "reliable" and "clean" from the WSSC mission statement.

"In my view, the public will no longer be able to trust the system that delivers water to residents," Brunhart said in one of his last public statement's as general manager.

He left the job later that month.

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