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Water-Line Rupture Sparks Cooperation And Some Confusion

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

By the time water service was restored to thousands of Montgomery County residents Monday night, the rupture of a 48-inch water main had created misery and confusion. But it also prompted neighbors to help one another. The City of Rockville, which didn't have problems with its water system, even stepped up to offer free water to help residents outside the city deal with having to boil tap water before drinking it.

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The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission attributed the Monday rupture to aging, overtaxed infrastructure. Here is how two residents coped.

For Flora Duncan, 78, who cares for a husband who has Alzheimer's disease, the water problem meant an entire morning boiling water for his bath and shampoo. With water pressure at slightly more than a trickle, she used a small pan to fill four large pots on the stove top, then cooled the boiling water with water filtered through a Brita pitcher.

"It's been very difficult," said Duncan, who lives at Leisure World in Silver Spring. "I'm just starting the breakfast dishes, and it's already lunchtime. But you do what you have to do."

For some, just determining who supplies their water was a challenge. Dan Gottfredson, owner of Great Harvest Bread in Rockville, spent more than an hour trying to find out whether his bakery was served by WSSC, which would mean he was under the contamination advisory, or the City of Rockville.

"We wondered if we needed to shut down and throw out about $1,500 worth of goods," Gottfredson said. After calling his landlord and the local fire station and encountering busy lines at WSSC, he finally learned from the utility that he was in an affected area. But he was told by a customer service representative that it wasn't necessary to boil water before using it. "I don't know what to think now," he said.

-- STEVE HENDRIX


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