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Pace Of Water Main Inspections Has Montgomery County Leaders Worried

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Inspection of Montgomery County's water mains is taking longer than county leaders expected.
Meredith Farmer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/meredithfarmer/325753101/
Inspection of Montgomery County's water mains is taking longer than county leaders expected.

Inspections on water pipes similar to one that burst in March along a busy thoroughfare in Chevy Chase won't be done for almost a year. The time frame is leaving Montgomery County leaders very frustrated.

A pipe burst along Connecticut Avenue on March 18 just inside the Beltway, shooting a 40-foot geyser of water into the air. The cleanup and repairs to both the pipe and the roadway snarled traffic for days along one of the busiest commuter thoroughfares in the D.C. region.

Analysis showed a manufacturing flaw was to blame for the pipe's failure, so the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission set about to inspect all similar sized pipes made of prestressed concrete to make sure breaks weren't imminent. WSSC leaders told the Montgomery County council this morning that those inspections won't be done until next May at the earliest.

"In between now and then, your counsel to us is 'We just cross our fingers and just assume that this is an isolated situation?'" said Councilman Roger Berliner.

Gary Gumm, the WSSC's chief engineer offered his response: "I wouldn't say cross your fingers and hope, but I would remind you that this is the first time this has happened in the 70 years that we've been playing with these kinds pipes."

Pipes made of pre-stressed concrete have given the WSSC fits in recent years, so they've been outfitted with acoustic wiring designed to alert engineers of impending breaks. Even though the Chevy Chase pipe had the wiring, it broke because of a manufacturing flaw, making it the exception to the other water main breaks.

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