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Posted at 10:04 AM ET, 07/12/2010

Reflections on the Md. water alert

By editors

By Jerry N. Johnson,
The writer is general manager and chief executive of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

Regarding the July 8 letters “Coping with water restrictions in Montgomery and Pr. George’s”:

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) had terrific cooperation from the state, counties and the media in getting the word out after a crack was found in a water main in Potomac. The Maryland State Highway Administration, at our request, put the message on its digital signage over highways. The counties used their Web sites and social media, such as Alert Montgomery.

The Post and other media outlets put out “breaking news” alerts via text and e-mail. And local TV stations scrolled the message across screens all weekend.
Our customers responded by cutting consumption by 17 percent on July 4. We thank them.

I’m grateful to letter writers for suggestions for additional means of communicating, such as publicizing water restrictions via grocery stores or putting fliers on our Web site that residents can download and distribute to neighbors. As the July 4 editorial “A ‘ping’ from the depths” noted, we benefited from the use of acoustic fiber-optic monitoring to spot the crack in the water main before it worsened, and our advanced planning paid off as well. As a new WSSC employee, I also echo the gratitude that letter writer Geoff Patton expressed toward WSSC workers for their dedication and knowledge in repairing the water main.

But one letter among the four published on July 8 stood out. Wenonah Hauter of Food and Water Watch reminded us about our aging, deteriorating and leaking infrastructure. Where will the money come from to fix it?

With the support of the WSSC commissioners, our agency has formed a bicounty committee to find long-term, sustainable funding.

By editors  | July 12, 2010; 10:04 AM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Maryland, Montgomery County, PG County, environment, public health  
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Next: Communication is everything on 'Blue Line Realignment'


WSSC's system is nearing the century mark. Of course, not all of the wells, pumps, mains, meters etc are actually almost 100 years old. But by the Commission's own admission, almost half of the system's piping will reach it's maximum life expectancy within the next 15 years. And a single letter "reminded" the board of the aging infrastructure & the need to do something about it? So now lets form a committee to see how much $$ we need & how to raise it. Shouldn't the board have been setting aside funds all along for capital improvements?

Posted by: PorthosAD | July 13, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

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