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Water World: Fixing the WSSC Stalemate


How long can a human live without water? According to the Internet (which never lies) anywhere from two days to a week or more.

How long can the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission live without a general manager? At least a year, which is how long the board that oversees WSSC has been feuding over the appointment of a new head.

That board, you will have read in yesterday's Post story by Katherine Shaver, can't agree on anything. Composed of six members -- three from Prince George's County, three from Montgomery County -- it is reduced to petty little hissy fits. The two delegations don't trust each other and delegations routinely walk out on the proceedings so there won't be a quorum.

Meanwhile, the pipes running under our streets are decaying. I understand that the U.S. Olympic whitewater rafting team was interested in training at River Road after that huge pipe burst dramatically not long ago.

How to remedy the "pathetic" stalemate? My original thought was to lock the six commissioners in their hearing room and not allow them out until they came to an agreement. They'd probably start out with some water -- or whatever is in those pitchers routinely spotted in government auditoriums -- and if they rationed it they could last a week or more.

But they probably wouldn't do that. I imagine the water would be gone by the first afternoon.

Still, a week is a long time to wait for such critical decisions, especially since WSSC customers have been waiting for months. So, to speed things up, I think we should take the opposite approach. Instead of denying the commissioners water, give them water. Lots of water. Seal them in a watertight room then break a water pipe. That shouldn't be too hard, given that the infrastructure is already crumbling. (And a proposed rate increase won't do anything to remedy that.)

Even then I think they'll dawdle, sniping at each other as the water laps at their ankles. When their chairs start to float they might start talking about a compromise solution. For their sakes, I hope they can reach one by the time they're treading water, their mouths up near the ceiling drawing desperate gasps of air.

What if they should expire before coming to a consensus? We'll just have to get six more WSSC commissioners. County officials may want to choose them based on lung capacity.

By John Kelly  |  February 19, 2009; 9:40 AM ET
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