Jul
17
2013

Prince George’s County, MD under severe water shortage…

[UPDATE: A friend of mine has put together… something that’s between an explanation and a rebuttal… in comments here. I vouch for my friend’s honesty, but I think that he’s far kinder to the state government than I would be.]

…and I mean severe.

Sections of southern Prince George’s County will be without water for the next several days while the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) attempts to repair a key 54-inch concrete pipeline in danger of failing.

The WSSC will turn off the water Tuesday at 9 p.m. to make repairs. Though there will be enough water in the system to last roughly 12 to 14 hours after the shut-off, mandatory water restrictions will begin at 9 p.m. to conserve the supply for firefighters and other critical functions while repairs are made.

The outage is expected to last three to five days. Residents in the affected region are advised to stockpile water in preparation.

Water rations of two gallons per person (one hopes, per day) will be handed out until the situation is resolved – by the way, 90 degree weather by the end of the week – and good luck figuring out when that is going to be.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: If you’re wondering why a major suburb of the Imperial Capital is undergoing a poor-maintenance-spawned water shortage right now, the answer’s easy to understand: Prince George’s County is majority-black and overwhelmingly Democratic, which means that Martin O’Malley and the rest of his Democratic cronies felt that it was safe to ignore infrastructure projects there*. I’m not being facetious: I live in the white part of Democratic Maryland (just north of Prince George’s County), and my water is working just fine.

*I mean, what are Prince George’s County residents going to do? Vote Republican?

 

5 Comments

  • Jeffstag says:

    A friend of mine who lives in town sunk a point (a shallow well) in his basement where noone could see it (strictly verboten where city water is available). Its there just in case of emergency (water issues like this, city charging too much for water, etc.). A secondary water source may be something to consider for some folks, depending on where your water table is and how up tight you are about everything being 100% city-approved.

  • Crawford says:

    Find some pool shock that’s pure calcium hypochlorite; a few teaspoons will treat tens of gallons of water to drinkable quality. Filter through a few layers of clean sheets, treat, let sit for a few hours, agitate, and there you are. There are even guides on the FEMA site for this.
    .
    And keep some water on-hand. If you drink bottled water, buy an extra week’s supply some week and always keep yourself ahead. If not, find something like water blocks or the like to keep some on hand.

  • MichaelN21209 says:

    Just to establish *my* credentials on this, I’m an accountant for a major civil-engineering firm in Maryland, and my firm does a ton of business with WSSC and with DC Water. I’m also a friend of Moe’s from a long time back, so many of you may have seen me commenting here from time to time.

    You can find a lot of the details at the Washington Post’s story on faulty concrete mains owned by WSSC, so this isn’t really surprising. I’ll note that the engineers have (as of this writing) managed to close a major valve to keep some service going, although I’d be surprised if the maximum flow rate is anything near the normal levels; usage restrictions are still in place (no car washing or lawn watering). The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) owns the pipes in Montgomery & Prince George’s Counties, and while they get *some* money from federal and state grants, it’s nowhere near the estimated $25 BILLION needed to rehab the system. Governor O’Malley couldn’t find 25 billion dollars in the state budget to send to WSSC if his life depended on it, and I’d hesitate to rely on the contractors that would materialize to take advantage of such a windfall if it did happen somehow.

    I’m also passingly familiar with the state of the water pipes in Moe’s neck of the woods (I’m an accountant, after all, not an engineer, so I cannot claim intimate familiarity), and let me assure you that the pipes are *not* fine — they just aren’t as generally close to failing as some of the other pipes in the area, unless you’ve been lucky enough to already get your pipes rehabilitated or replaced. DC Water, WSSC, and Anne Arundel County DPW are all trying hard to stay on top of this, but there’s only so much they can do with the funding they have. They’re trying hard to predict which pipes are in the worst shape, but this isn’t as easy as one might think.

    “Poor-maintenance-spawned” is an oversimplification. Instead, it’s caused by a flawed design, compounded by inadequate funding for repairs and replacement since… well, pretty much always. The American Society of Civil Engineers has been banging this drum for a long time, and neither party has done a good job of stepping up to the plate for funding infrastructure. I can assure you that a great deal of funding is going to meet the needs of Prince George’s County (and DC, and Anne Arundel County, and Montgomery County, and…), but the need outstrips the funding right now, and will for the foreseeable future. To cite just one example, WSSC has tripled their Capital Funds expenditures for FY13 vs. FY10.

    Should a lot of this have already been done back 10 or 20 years ago? Yes. WSSC isn’t alone in having plans for maintenance that bore little resemblance to how things worked out, though — it certainly wasn’t targeted at a politically safe constituency, though.

    • Herp McDerp says:

      The American Society of Civil Engineers has been banging this drum for a long time, and neither party has done a good job of stepping up to the plate for funding infrastructure.
       
      Hmmm … Didn’t we just have one of those “Stimulus” thingies a couple of years ago in which the Government spent $800 billion on shovel-ready infrastructure projects?
       
      Please don’t tell me they didn’t spend all that money on shovel-ready infrastructure projects! I’d be shocked and heartbroken!

    • Moe_Lane says:

      Yeah, my own wife the engineer brought up the, ah, checkered history of the pipe-fitting company that started the whole thing a century ago. Still, I have a very low opinion of Maryland’s state government when it comes to potential political implications of its resource allocation, and their disaster prep isn’t impressing me much, either. I’ll still link to Michael’s observations, though: fair’s fair. 🙂

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