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Committee sets recommendations for WSSC

Thursday - 3/27/2014, 2:34pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- A bi-county committee formed after concerns about safety threats posed by water main failures has come up with a set of recommendations for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

The WSSC serves Montgomery and Prince George's Counties and the committee includes officials and citizens groups from both.

The draft report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Large Diameter Pipe suggests the utility:

  • prioritize the large water main breaks most likely to fail

  • revise the risk assessment considerations to include what's on top of or near those mains (densely populated areas vs. open land for example)

  • provide the public with more information about potential risks posed by large mains where ruptures or aging could be an issue

The report, which isn't binding, also recommends the WSSC pay more attention to the location and condition of valves, like the one that played a role in water restrictions last year. In July of 2013, crews trying to fix a water main struggled with an underground valve. The gears were locked by rust that caked the working parts.

For three days WSSC crews wrestled with the valve, it was only after a team of four men refused to give up, that they got it to budge, averting an extended water outage.

At the time, WSSC staffer Tom Ecker told reporters, " We knew if we could get that valve to work, it would save the commission a lot of headaches and save a lot of people from going without" water.

The incident highlighted the problem of underground valves and WSSC's ability to get them to work in a crunch.

The draft report will be finalized on March 31 and forwarded to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

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