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Pipe Failure Latest In A String Of Problems For WSSC

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Click to see the map of the affected area.

Around 100,000 residents of Prince George's County will run out of water today—and will likely not have it back until the end of the week.

The failing 54-inch water main in Forestville is just the latest in a string of high-profile pipe problems for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. This one is different in a few aspects, though.

The line is in Prince George's County, while most of the high-profile WSSC water main breaks happened in neighboring Montgomery County. That's of little consolation to Prince George's County executive Rushern Baker, though.

"Residents and businesses are frustrated. We're frustrated too. But right now our focus is getting us through these next few days," he said.

The second difference is that the pipe in question had not actually burst. Acoustic wires began breaking over the weekend, alerting the WSSC of the impending failure of the pipe, said spokeswoman Lyn Riggins. "It does not have any redundancy. There are a lot of other parts of our system where when we have to take down, we can reroute water through other mains. That's not the case down here unfortunately."

The most memorable of the WSSC breaks occurred in 2008 right before Christmas, when a busted pipe spewed water so hard and quickly on River Road in Montgomery County that drivers needed to be rescued from cars via helicopter. Riggins says had this main broke in Forestville the situation could have been similar.

"It certainly could have. This main is back in a heavily wooded area, and it would run down a hill back there. So it wouldn't be on a major road like River Road was. But we would still lose millions of gallons of water if this main were to break," she said.

Prince George's County executive Baker says he wants to meet with his Montgomery County counterpart Isiah Leggett soon to further discuss the WSSC problems.

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