Water main breaks are starting to bust out in D.C. area

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 10:54 PM

It's December, a time for early sunsets, sinking temperatures and broken water mains. You could set your calendar by them.

At one point Tuesday, the water utility that serves Montgomery and Prince George's counties listed breaks at 19 locations from Bethesda to Landover.

Several occurred in the District as well, including a 20-inch diameter main near the National Cathedral that affected a 75-unit apartment complex, 10 homes and eight commercial buildings, said Pamela Mooring, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.

In explaining the breaks, specialists cite something widely discussed in other contexts this time of year: seasonal stress. In this case, it is the stress on pipes from the rapid change in daily water temperatures.

"Pipes are popping all over the place," said John C. White, a spokesman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which supplies the two suburban Maryland counties.

"My water went off this morning," said Landover resident Marian Bratsis. But repairs were made to a 12-inch main near Belle Haven Drive, and soon her faucet began to run again.

"Full force," she said.

Meanwhile, Beverley Kennedy went dry on Walhonding Road in Bethesda, site of another break. There was water Tuesday morning, but "I don't have any water right now," she said that evening.

On Wisconsin Avenue NW, where a break was reported Tuesday evening between Idaho Avenue and Woodley Road, "a couple of faucets" were out at the Cactus Cantina restaurant, said Lori Spahia, a manager there.

At the Cafe Deluxe, host Michelle Orr said the establishment had water - but that while outdoors, some patrons and staff members had been sprayed.

Another break Tuesday evening, this one on C Street NW, affected the Federal Reserve headquarters, Mooring said. She said some breaks reported earlier in the day had already been repaired.

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