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In Prince George's County, 100,000 To Go Without Water During Main Repairs

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Workers are getting a new pipe in place, but installation is still some ways away.
Matt Bush
Workers are getting a new pipe in place, but installation is still some ways away.
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Click to see the map of the affected area.

The timing couldn't be worse. With temperatures expected to stay in the upper 90s through the end of the week, up to 100,000 residents of southern portions of Prince George's County are being told to be ready for up to five days of no water while a 54-inch water main is repaired.

"At 9 p.m. tonight, mandatory water restrictions go into effect," said Lyn Riggins, spokeswoman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. "What that means for affected customers is no outside watering. No topping off swimming pools. Limit your inside water use. Try not to flush the toilet every time you use it. Don't run the laundry machine. Don't run the dishwashing machine. Try and conserve water."

WSSC officials are urging residents in an area stretching from Andrews Air Force Base to the Potomac River to stock up on water by filling up bottles and their bathtubs. 

"The pipe is Pre-stressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP) and located inside the Beltway between Suitland Parkway and Forestville Road. Our monitoring system has recorded an increasing number of wire breaks in the pipe," explained WSSC in a press release. "That’s a signal that this type of pipe is beginning to fail."

Some of the affected areas will include Morningside, Hillcrest Heights, Camp Springs, Forest Heights, Temple Hills, and Oxon Hill, including Joint Base Andrews and the National Harbor.

The WSSC is currently filling its system in the southern part of the county to its brim, so there will be water for customers for 12-15 hours once the main in question is shut down. Once that happens, customers in the affected area will be without water for anywhere from 3 to 5 days.

"We would absolutely not do this during the hottest week of the year if this was not an emergency," Riggins says. "This is an emergency. And we've seen what happens when these large water mains break. River Road in 2008, when that main broke, people had to be rescued by helicopter from their cars."

The 2008 River Road break in Montgomery County occurred without warning. Riggins says acoustic wiring on pipes that the WSSC has intensified in implementing since that incident helped alert them before this particular pipe broke, but admits their customers who will be sweating the rest of the week without water will find that of little consolation.

The group Food & Friends, which usually delivers meals to people with life-challenging illnesses, says they will deliver 1,000 gallons of water to their clients in the affected area. Others are left turning to retailers, which are already reporting low quantities of bottled water.

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