Water main break leads to boil water advisory for swath of P.G. County
Updated: January 25, 2011 - 07:00 am
An accident caused by the water main break was reported as taking place on Hanover Park Boulevard. The accident actually took place on Hampton Park Boulevard.
LARGO, Md. — About 400,000 people, nearly half the residents of Prince George's County, will spend the next three days boiling their water after Monday's massive water main break in Largo, which shut down the Capital Beltway's Inner Loop during the morning rush hours.
The 54-inch main ruptured about 3:50 a.m., spilling 50 million gallons of water before crews were able to close valves and stop the leak. That compares with 36 million gallons during the Dec. 2008 water main break along River Road in Cabin John.
At one point, water from the broken main shot 8 or 9 feet in the air, Lyn Riggins, a spokeswoman for the water agency, told the Associated Press. "It looks like somewhere where you would go white water rafting."
The force of the break was enough to tear apart the parking lot. Chunks of asphalt were strewn across the parking lot, and three cars were flipped over, including Alonzo Snowden's Subaru Legacy.
"They say it was right over top of the water main when it blew," Snowden said, "16 feet in the air."
The gushing water cut a path through the Ecclesia Family Life and Worhsip Center, across the parking lot, and then onto the Capital Beltway, where there was three or four feet of standing water. At least one vehicle crashed on the ice which formed. Some drivers were stuck in traffic for up to two hours before the highway was detoured onto neighborhood roads.
Robert Johnson says his "commute normally takes half hour." But "it's been an hour and a half" today, he said. "A complete mess."
Crews had reopened all lanes of the Inner Loop before the evening rush hours. State highway administration officials had said it was unlikely the roadway had been damaged by the flowing water.
The boil advisory covered most Prince George's County residents who live south of Ritchie Marlboro Road. WSSC advised those 400,000 customers to boil water for at least a minute before "drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth and food preparation." The county health department said the restrictions would last for the next three days.
WSSC officials say it'll be a while before the exact cause of the rupture is known.
In the past such failures have been blamed on rusting reinforcing wire, the cold weather, or simply age. The ruptured pipe is about 40 years old. Crews spent five hours carefully closing valves to shut off the water. One small geyser even popped up when a valve upstream broke. Many customers temporarily experienced low water pressure, leading many schools and government agencies, including Andrews Air Force base, to close, or delay or limit operations.
See our closing pages for all details about closures due to the break: An employee at the Suitland Federal Center says it is closed today. Holy Family Catholic School in Capitol Heights will be closed today. Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville will be closed today. University For Tots child care center in Suitland will be closed. National Christian Academy in Fort Washington will be closing at noon today. Andrews Air Force Base is reporting that it is limiting some of its operations.
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