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Posted at 3:15 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Boil water order in Prince George's

By Debbi Wilgoren and Ovetta Wiggins

Dr. Gridlock: Tips for avoiding the jam | Photos: Morning commute snarled | Traffic map | Census, NOAA offices closed

3:15 p.m. Update: Only one lane is closed on the inner loop of the Beltway as a result of the massive water main break earlier today, state officials said.

David Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said the state reopened the lane about 1 p.m.

2:32 p.m. Update: Jerry Johnson, WSSC’s general manager, said during a news conference at the site of the break that it is unclear how long it will take to repair the water main, but "it will certainly cost over $1 million" to fix.

The cause of the break will be determined after a forensics evaluation, he said.

Johnson said the 40-year-old pipe was last inspected in 1999. He was joined by U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) to tour the damage.

Edwards said the massive break "highlights that we have a serious problem, not just in Maryland but across the country, in investing in our aging infrastructure."

Edwards said ratepayers and local governments need the federal government to "be a partner" to adequately address the issue.

"It stops our competitiveness, it shuts us down, commuters can't get to work," she said.

1:35 p.m. Update: The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission issued a boil water advisory for a broad swath of Prince George's County following a water main break that shut down inner loop traffic for much of the morning.

The order affects customers in an area that extends roughly from the District line to Route 301 and from just south of Central Avenue to Indian Head Highway.

Here's a map of the area:

Meanwhile, the Maryland State Highway Administration reports that three lanes are now open on the inner loop at Central Avenue.

Officials said the order is a precaution due to the loss of pressure in the system, which increases the risk of contamination. Water for drinking, ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth and food preparation should be brought to a rolling boil for one minute and cooled, WSSC officials said. The order also applies to water used by pets.

Officials said the order will be in effect until pressure is restored in the system and water quality has been confirmed through tests.

Updated, 12:20 p.m.: John White, a WSSC spokesman, said about 400,000 customers are affected by the water main break. The majority, but not all, of the customers affected live south of Central Avenue, White said.
Most of the customers are experiencing low pressure, he said.

"We have isolated reports of people with no water," White said.

Lyn Riggins, another spokesperson for WSSC, said crews have shut down three valves since the main broke early Monday. They are working on containing two more.

"It still looks like white water rapids behind there, but it's greatly reduced from this morning," Riggins said, referring to the industrial area where the water main broke.

Riggins said crews have identified the location of the break but do not know what caused it.

"First and foremost is getting the water shut down, and then we can move to repair mode," she said. It could take months before WSSC determines a cause, she said.

Riggins said the reduction in the flow of water has resulted in it running parallel to the Capital Beltway.

Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said two left lanes were reopened about 10:40 a.m. after a four-hour shutdown of the inner loop.

Gischlar said traffic was never backed up more than two or three miles. "We were trying to alert people and suggest detours, and I think people heeded that," he said.

Gischlar said traffic crews are waiting for the water supply to be shut off before they begin salting the roadways.

mainbreak3.jpg

The Beltway was covered in water. (Gerald Martineau for The Washington Post)

This post has been updated since it was first published.

Updated, 11:40 a.m.

The Maryland State Highway Administration says the two left lanes of the inner loop have reopened at Central Avenue. Use caution in the area. Crews were treating the area with salt and sand, but conditions may still be icy.

Original post:

A large water main break closed the Capital Beltway's inner loop at Route 214 (Central Avenue) in Prince George's County early Monday, creating a major problem for the rush-hour commute.

Officials said all southbound lanes of I-95 would be closed for several hours. With pre-dawn temperatures of about 10 degrees, well below freezing, the spilled water was rapidly turning into ice on the highway, according to live reports from the scene. At least one car appeared to have skidded on the ice and up onto an embankment. Salt and sand trucks were sent to the site treat the icy areas.

Major traffic backups were reported as a result of the break, which the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said occurred about 3:50 a.m. Cars were being rerouted onto Central Avenue westbound, to Hampton Park Boulevard, to Richie Marlboro Road, then back onto the Beltway.

mainbreak4.jpg

The source of the water main break, which is just off the Beltway. (Gerald Martineau/For the Post)

The U.S. Census Bureau closed its Suitland headquarters Monday because the building has no water. Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville also announced it would close.

Lyn Riggins, a WSSC spokeswoman, said the pipe that ruptured was a major distribution main, 54 inches in diameter. Crews were trying to locate the exact site of the break, which appeared to be a short distance from the Beltway, Riggins said, with water flowing down a slight incline onto the highway. The cause of the break was not immediately clear.

"Our focus, our priority right now is getting the main shut down, finding the valves, so we can stop the water from flowing," Riggins said at 5:55 a.m.

Customers living south of Central Avenue were experiencing low water pressure as a result of the break, said I.J. Hudson, another WSSC spokesperson. The utility company urged customers to conserve water as much as possible until the main is repaired.

Note: Please upgrade your Flash plug-in to view our enhanced content.

Locator map

Inner loop closed

By Debbi Wilgoren and Ovetta Wiggins  | January 24, 2011; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland, Traffic and Transportation  
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Comments

Another reason to live and work in DC.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | January 24, 2011 7:24 AM | Report abuse

This is unreal and I could only imagine. I left that area for a better life in Atlanta, GA and yet I still see and stay up today with the news there. Un real as the videos suggest. Take Care Largonians....

Posted by: GENESIS1825 | January 24, 2011 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Encouraged by the results of their River Road work, the Mole People have now struck the opposite side of the Beltway. I say we give in to their demands before they flood the entire city!

Posted by: kennedye | January 24, 2011 9:24 AM | Report abuse

"Crews were trying to locate the exact site of the break, which appeared to be a short distance from the Beltway, Riggins said"

Uhm, it is right there where the video is being filmed. See the big bubbling gusher of water, right there in the middle of the parking lot that has upturned two vehicles?

Posted by: Jfrenaye | January 24, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

To RepealObamaCareNow: I assume you literally mean live and work in DC proper since the water main break in Maryland and is being addressed by WSSC that serves MD and most of the traffic on the inner loop there would be MD to DC or VA bound. DC is served by DCWASA.

Posted by: rogernebel | January 24, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Jfrenaye: the leak could be 100m away and well underground. It isn't necessarily where the water is coming up.

Posted by: triffid1 | January 24, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Jfrenaye: the leak could be 100m away and well underground. It isn't necessarily where the water is coming up.

Posted by: triffid1 | January 24, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Encouraged by the results of their River Road work, the Mole People have now struck the opposite side of the Beltway. I say we give in to their demands before they flood the entire city!

Posted by: kennedye | January 24, 2011 9:24 AM

------------------------------------------

Is anywhere on the surface world truly safe from their nefarious schemes?

Posted by: js_edit | January 24, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Must be Bush's fault!

Posted by: jellymon | January 24, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I am Moleiferous! King of the Mole People! Worship me and throw $1 million down the hole! If you do not comply within 12 hours, I shall destroy your vehicles one by one!

Posted by: fmamstyle | January 24, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I for one welcome our new subterrainian Underlords and kneel before them. I'm sure they can do a better job than the local, state, and federal governments in upgrading and repairing regional infrastructure that is, in places, over 100 years old.

If the water main break had been below the Capitol, perhaps the Congress would see the need to fund such projects, which would help prevent future catastrophic water main breaks (and bridge collapses like in Minneapolis a few years back) and also CREATE JOBS!

Posted by: t_arbetter | January 24, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Hey Barack, here's a 'shovel-ready' job for you.

Posted by: tulsa_dave | January 24, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Officials say Jack Bee Johnson has been seen in the area and has struck a deal with the Mole people. Pay to play,he told them, and Jack Bee got a bra full of money in return.

Posted by: MrAardvark | January 24, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

When are people going to learn that metal pipes that deteriorate over time and shifting land do not mix.

Posted by: localgoober | January 24, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

The WSSC has how many miles of pipe that is 50+ or more years old and in desperate need of replacement? The Metro area residents need to LOOK OUT because every year we see more and more of these violent breaches of WSSC pipes. It is just a matter of time before the Potomac takes over!

Posted by: 7-LookOut | January 24, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Wow! I'm sorry for the folks who lost their cars.

Posted by: eabgarnet | January 24, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse


So we have Donna Edwards, Jerry Johnson, Jackie B. Johnson and the mole people in on this; where is Rushern Boogieman?

Posted by: polecatx1 | January 24, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

A round of applause for the authors of this piece. The maps are very helpful. The updates, video, and photo take advantage of online media and cover this particular kind of story in a way that the print version can't. Nicely done.

Posted by: JPRS | January 24, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Encouraged by the results of their River Road work, the Mole People have now struck the opposite side of the Beltway. I say we give in to their demands before they flood the entire city!

Posted by: kennedye | January 24, 2011 9:24 AM | Report abuse

-------------------------------------------
Funny.

Posted by: DCFanatic | January 24, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Jack John's wife has money in her Bra to fix this.

Posted by: COOLCHILLY | January 24, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Another reason to live and work in DC.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow |


Please shut up with the my neighborhood, my job, my kid, my dog, my car, my college is better than yours ultra competitive yuppie loser bullshiiit. A water main break can happen anywhere.

Posted by: ged0386 | January 24, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Ever notice how the Anti Obama bloggers never really make sense in their blogs but they dont care so as long as they can say something negative about the people they dont like politically. I hope they are more rational in their daily lives than they are on internet blogs. Lets see how can I spin a water main break into something where I can attack someone politically.

Posted by: ged0386 | January 24, 2011 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Last inspected in 1999? Damn WSSC, you apparently need a better inspection schedule.

Posted by: michael49 | January 24, 2011 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Jack Johnson was too busy pushing through permits to pad wifey-pooh's bra to get the area thoroughly inspected and ready for all of that development in that area. Bum. The Johnsons should have to pay for this one.

Posted by: washkrdj | January 24, 2011 8:23 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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