Three breaks in two days

IMAGE: WSSC staff regard the first of three holes caused by a water line break under East-West Highway. Photo by Bill Brown.

JUN 16—A major road through Takoma Park was closed due to crumbling infrastructure three times this week. A vintage 1933 eight-inch wide water main under East-West Highway, State Route 410, burst early Monday morning, creating a ten-foot wide hole in the road and leaving 31 households without water.


The hole created by the rush of water from a broken line, as seen June 13 around noon. The old FDR-era water pipe can be seen at the bottom of the hole. Photo by Bill Brown.

A crew from water utility Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission made the hole safe to work in, cut out a five-foot length of the old pipe, replaced it, filled the hole, temporarily patched the road surface and restored water service to local households by mid-afternoon.

Then it burst again. The new break was adjacent to the first one.

The WSSC crew returned, re-dug the hole, cut out and replaced the second broken pipe section, filled the hole, patched the road surface, and restored water service.


Wesley McBride, WSSC utility services group leader in white hard hat, Monday, June 13 around noon. Photo by Bill Brown.

Then it burst again. The Tuesday, June 14 break was on another adjacent pipe section. Again, the crew dug a hole, repaired the pipe, covered it, patched it and restored water service for the third and last time, hopefully.

“it is not uncommon for there to be multiple breaks in an adjacent area within a close timeframe.” said Wesley McBride, WSSC utility services group leader.


The road closure and repair work as seen from the intersection of East-West Highway and Piney Branch Road around noon, Monday, June 13, Photo by Bill Brown.

Traffic was restored to normal early Wednesday morning. The temporary road patches will eventually be replaced with more permanent ones.

McBride said that as part of its plan to replace close to 50 miles of old water mains per year, WSSC is preparing to replace the old line under East-West Highway. Replacement should start, he said, “in the near future.”


Repair crew jackhammering around the second dig, 8:45 a.m., June 14. Photo by Mary Ellsworth.

The pipe replacement may have been delayed by city request. The city asked WSSC for a delay because the extensive road work involved would coincide with the Carroll Avenue bridge closure starting mid-July, 2016. The bridge repair project will interrupt and detour traffic on State Route 195, a heavily used north-south road through the middle of Takoma Park. The city did not want a simultaneous traffic interruption on Takoma Park’s major east-west route.

City councilmember Peter Kovar monitored the East-West Highway repairs June 13 and 14, visiting the site a number of times.


Intersection of East-West Highway/Philadelphia Avenue (State Route 410) and Piney Branch Road, 8:45 a.m., June 14. Photo by Mary Ellsworth.

The two-day road closure created traffic backups, Kovar noted at the Wednesday, June 15 city council meeting. They were made worse by other nearby street work: a tree removal on Piney Branch Road, a state highway crew installing a traffic light on East-West Highway a few blocks to the west and another crew repairing sidewalks on the same section.

Kovar said it was “a dry run over what could happen when the bridge is closed.” Kovar said that, based on what he saw on East-West Highway this week,”we may want to think about having sufficient police” to redirect bridge traffic on the first day of closure.


On June 14, 9 a.m., road blocks are gone, the hole is filled and traffic-flow is restored on East-West Highway. Photo by Bill Brown.

Cars were clogging narrow residential streets that seldom see any drive-through traffic, he said, as they sought routes around the closure.

Kovar praised the repair crew, but said he thought WSSC should inform affected residents when the water is safe to drink following the loss of service.


Another project reduced traffic to one lane on Philadelphia Avenue (Rte. 410) about three blocks west of the water break, Monday, June 13. Photo by Bill Brown.

1 Comment on "Three breaks in two days"

  1. Jay J. Levy | June 17, 2016 at 4:49 pm |

    Three cheers for Council member Kovar’s keeping us waterless folks abreast of the situation. Five boos for WSSC, which never notified us of 3 times they cut the water or when it would be turned on or warned us that the quality of it might be Flint-like when it was finally restored. WSSC= We Screw the System”s Customers (although we really have nice offices off I-95)

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