Mandatory water restrictions are still in effect for WSSC’s 1.8 million customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s County after a five-foot pipe burst on Monday night in Chevy Chase.
But unless a neighbor sees and reports a violator blatantly using too much water, it’s unlikely any fines will be levied, according to WSSC spokeswoman Kira Calm Lewis. No customers have been cited in violation of the restrictions after Monday’s incident.
“We’re not out playing the gotcha game,” Lewis said. “We’re trusting people mostly to be on the honor system as far as abiding by the restriction. We’re asking them to be more thoughtful of their use of water and to not use any water that they don’t really need to over the next couple of days.”
The main transmission line burst Monday night, sending water shooting 30 feet into the air, causing downed trees and power lines and damaging Chevy Chase Lake Drive. WSSC officials say the right and middle lanes of northbound Connecticut Avenue are still closed and will likely be closed through today’s afternoon rush hour.
The agency is already facing scrutiny over the incident. County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) announced yesterday he will schedule a hearing in which he’ll ask why a fiber optic monitoring system in the pipe did not warn of the break and why a nearby 96-inch water main has been out of transmission since November.
Berliner said it was the combination of the out-of-service line and the break that made WSSC impose the mandatory water restrictions, which encourage people to limit flushing toilets, put off washing clothes, limit the use of dishwashers, take shorter showers and turn off faucets after washing hands and while brushing teeth. There is a maximum $500 fine associated with the restrictions.
WSSC asks for the cut in water usage to ensure emergency services, such as firefighters and hospital workers, have enough pressurized water.
Lewis said while WSSC has patrol officers, meter readers and members of its customer care team who will investigate situations in the course of their daily activity, it’s not out looking for violators.
The last time Lewis could recall penalties under the restrictions was in July 2010, when a 96-inch water main was put out of service at Tuckerman Lane and Gainsborough Drive in Potomac.
After a few days, WSSC was short of its goal for 30 percent less water usage. In the first three days after the restrictions were put in place, WSSC police issued 233 warnings and two citations. Lewis said many of those warnings came from neighbors who saw their neighbors watering lawns or topping off swimming pools.
Repairs to the Chevy Chase water main break could take several days to finish, according to a Wednesday press release from WSSC. Workers are removing a 20-foot section of the pipe and replacing it with a new section today.
Lewis said the sooner WSSC can reach a comfortable level of water usage, the sooner it can lift the restrictions.
“The more compliance we get, the sooner we’ll be able to lift the restrictions,” Lewis said. “Honestly, if everyone cuts down on their usage, it makes this easier.”
Photo via WSSC