The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission recently completed a tricky mining procedure for a bi-county water main that will run under Bethesda.
On April 24, WSSC “holed through” the wall of a shaft 200 feet below a spot near Tuckerman Lane and I-270. A Tunnel Boring Machine drilled a 4.5-mile section of what will be a tunnel for a 84-inch diameter water main that will be able to hold up to 100 million gallons of water a day.
WSSC said its Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) hit its target under Tuckerman Lane a few feet off from dead center.
It was the last leg of the 5.3-mile tunnel and the final step in the mining portion of the Bi-County Water Tunnel Project. The Bi-County Water Tunnel will run along I-270 and I-495, connecting two existing 96-inch water mains and helping to keep up with increasing water demands in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
A press release on the project said the new main will also increase reserves in case of emergency. It will be completed in 2014.
The scheduled shutdown of several large water mains at the time of the Chevy Chase Lake Drive water main break in March, including a 96-inch main from WSSC’s Potomac filtration plant to Tuckerman Lane, drew scrutiny from Montgomery County leaders.
The break, combined with the shutdowns combined forced WSSC to issue mandatory water use restrictions.
Video via WSSC
O’Malley Talks 2016 On Overseas Trade Visit — During an eight-day economic development tour in the Middle East, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said he’ll spend the latter half of this year deciding if he’ll run for President in 2016. [Washington Examiner]
WSSC Forms Safety Committee On Large Water Mains — The water and sewage utility previously wanted all development near large water mains to be set back 80 feet from pipes, an idea County officials opposed. Now, WSSC has formed an ad hoc committee to discuss safety measures developers should take. [The Gazette]
Imagination Stage’s 2013-2014 Season Includes Two World Premieres — “Lulu and the Brontosaurus” and “Cinderella: the Remix,” will debut at the Bethesda children’s theater (4908 Auburn Ave.). Also in the 2013-2014 season, announced this week, is “Lyle the Crocodile” and “Rumpelstilltskin.”
County Invites Residents To Celebrate Restoration Of Lower Booze Creek — The County recently finished a restoration project of the Lower Booze Creek in the Bannockburn neighborhood and is asking residents to attend an event from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 18. Participants at the event can learn about the design and construction of the project and take a tour of stream restoration techniques. The project entrance is along Helmsdale Road and Selkirk Drive. [Montgomery County]
Flickr photo by Juan Esandi
One of the last remaining signs of last month’s major water main break in Chevy Chase has been repaired, as Chevy Chase Lake Drive has been reopened.
The March 18 break of the main transmission line sent water shooting 30 feet high at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Chevy Chase Lake Drive, causing a downed power line, downed trees and torn up asphalt along the two-lane road.
WSSC had Connecticut Avenue fully reopened by the end of that week and mandatory water restrictions were called off by that weekend. But the repairs of Chevy Chase Lake Drive left some headaches for residents of HOC housing, workers at the 8401 Connecticut Avenue office building and customers of businesses there.
The Chevy Chase Land Company which owns the 8401 Connecticut building and has its headquarters there, asked tenants to park in the parking lot behind the nearby shopping center. Customers and visitors were allowed to park for free at the surface lot at 8401.
That road has been completely repaved with new yellow lane markings. The reconstruction of the sidewalk on the south side of the road is complete.
WSSC spokesperson I.J. Hudson said some tree planting and stream bank restoration work remains. WSSC is responsible for repairing roads, trees and sidewalks damaged by water main breaks.
Some photos via WSSC
WSSC officials today said they still don’t know what caused the major water main break on Connecticut Avenue last month, but that the fiber optic monitoring system meant to warn of breaks did not fail.
WSSC chief engineer Gary Gumm told the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee that the acoustic fiber optic (AFO) monitoring system did not warn of the break because it only detects pings or snapping sounds of steel wires that support the system’s major water PCCP mains. Because the steel wires at the Connecticut Avenue break did not snap before the break, WSSC had no notice of what was coming.
“That is a distinction however that has very little comfort to our community because the purpose of the AFO system is to give us warning,” said Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) who organized today’s hearing the day after the break. “That’s a source of great anxiety for our community.”
A resident did report a leak near the 60-inch main at 1 p.m., about seven hours before the March 18 break, which led to a geyser of water near the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Chevy Chase Lake Drive in Chevy Chase. The damage left downed power lines, a torn-up lane of Chevy Chase Lake Drive, traffic problems on Connecticut Avenue and a mandatory water use restriction for the county.
Gumm said the crew that responded to the leak acted appropriately, determining it came from a valve that could be repaired the next morning.
The full forensic report is expected in June.
“We did not know that this type of pipe might fail without the wires breaking first,” Gumm said. “Water was seen bubbling out of a valve on Connecticut Avenue. In hindsight, a mistake was made there. …What I think we learned with this one is I think they did everything that they’re supposed to do. When these valves are in the vicinity of some of these larger pipes, again I think we need to take a little more time, put a little more effort to try and make sure we’ve isolated it to the valve and not to the PCCP line.”
Gumm indicated that the atypical shape of the pipe at the point where it broke might have had something to do with the break, which WSSC has categorized as a catastrophic failure. Gumm said 11 other large mains have been repaired or replaced since 2011 because the AFO system detected snapped wires. One other repair is scheduled to begin in May.
When pressed for more details on how atypical the pipe was, Gumm said only about three percent of WSSC’s large PCCP water mains are similar.
Berliner and Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At large) also questioned WSSC general manager Jerry Johnson and Gumm about the agency’s inspection and repair schedule. The scheduled shutdown of several large water mains at the time of the March water main break, including a 96-inch main from WSSC’s Potomac filtration plant to Tuckerman Lane, ultimately led to the mandatory water restrictions. The 96-inch main has been closed since the fall.
“Perhaps we have learned in this exercise that we could have done a little better. Instead of waiting for the entirety of the report or recommendations for repairs, our contractor vehicles do allow us as we know things to get started on them,” Gumm said. “We could probably shave some time off the repair process by doing that.”
Berliner asked Johnson for a comparison of WSSC’s performance to systems in other jurisdictions. He also discussed WSSC’s request for 80-foot setbacks for all buildings near major water mains such as the one that broke in Chevy Chase and repaving work from WSSC contractors after standard neighborhood water main repairs.
The full report WSSC officials gave the Committee today will be published on Montgomery County’s website.
Photo via WSSC
UPDATE 3:30 WSSC crews have found a leak in a water main that may be contributing to standing water in a wooded area off Jones Mill Road in Chevy Chase.
It’s unclear how much of the water is from the leak or from melting snow, but this afternoon WSSC said there appears to be a leak in the 54-inch water main near 3217 Coquelin Terrace.
A press release this afternoon said the leak was at first thought to be in a relief valve, but WSSC crews have confirmed the leak was in the transmission main itself. There is no need for mandatory water restrictions, according to the release.
The main is connected to the 60-inch line that broke last Monday at Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Connecticut Avenue, but WSSC spokesman I.J. Hudson said it’s too early to know if the leak is in any way connected to last week’s event. The leak occurred 1.2 miles east of the Connecticut Avenue break, Hudson said.
No customers are without water service and no roads or traffic patterns have been affected by the leak. WSSC crews are using Jones Mill Road Neighborhood Park as an access point to the woods.
WSSC says a resident reported seeing water on the ground in the wooded area near the 3200 block of Coquelin Terrace on Monday.
The press release this afternoon said the main does have the acoustic fiber optic monitoring system that did not warn the WSSC in time to prevent last Monday’s main break. But the monitoring system is designed to detect the snapping of steel wires embedded in the pipe and not leaks.
Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) announced the date and 9:30 a.m. start time for the session today on his Twitter account.
Last week, after the 60-inch transmission main broke and sent water shooting about 30-feet into the air at the intersection of Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Connecticut Avenue, Berliner said WSSC general manager Jerry N. Johnson agreed to appear before his Transportation & Environment Committee to answer questions about the what caused the break and if it could have been prevented.
Berliner said he would ask Johnson why a fiber optic cable monitoring system failed to warn WSSC in enough time before the break. In the time since Berliner’s announcement, reports surfaced that a Chevy Chase resident saw and reported water spouting from the road about seven hours before the break, which occurred on Monday at about 7:45 p.m. A WSSC crew determined the water came from a leaky valve and that repair on it could be put off until the next morning.
WSSC has said it will take weeks before a forensic investigation determines the cause of the break.
The break caused significant damage to Chevy Chase Lake Drive and the creek bed just west of the intersection. Both sides of Connecticut Avenue were closed into last Tuesday morning and all three lanes of northbound Connecticut Avenue weren’t re-opened until late last week.
WSSC also imposed mandatory water restrictions in its entire Montgomery and Prince George’s service area to ensure enough water for fire fighters and hospitals.
Berliner said he will ask why a nearby 96-inch water main remains out of service. He claimed mandatory water restrictions were necessary because of the combination of the closure and the Chevy Chase water main break.
WSSC says repairs to the 60-inch water main that burst Monday night in Chevy Chase are almost complete and that mandatory water restrictions could be lifted this weekend.
The pipe broke on Monday at about 7:45 p.m., sending water shooting about 30 feet into the air near at the intersection of Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Connecticut Avenue. The break tore through some of the pavement on Chevy Chase Lake Drive and caused erosion in the nearby stream bank that led to a downed tree and downed power line.
Connecticut Avenue was closed in both directions from Monday night until all three southbound lanes were opened on Tuesday morning. Two lanes of northbound Connecticut Avenue, where the repair work was going on, were open yesterday.
WSSC this morning said some main aspects of the repair were completed yesterday, including grouting of the joints and re-installation of the Acoustic Fiber Optic monitoring system, the same system that will be under scrutiny for not providing an earlier warning of the pipe break when taken up at a future County Council Committee hearing.
A warning from a Chevy Chase resident of water leaking through the road about seven hours before the break will also draw attention. The Washington Post reported the story today.
WSSC reports that crews will flush out the repaired line today, part of the decontamination process before putting the transmission main back into service.
Once it is back in service, WSSC will lift mandatory water restrictions.
Photo via WSSC
Montgomery Public Schools Staff To Get Raise — Teachers and other MCPS employees who qualify will get step increases and all others will get 2 percent raises next February, after the Board of Education approved contracts with three unions on Thursday. MCPS superintendent Joshua Starr added $6 million to his recommendation for salary increases for a total of $18.6 million. [The Gazette]
Resident Reported Issue With Chevy Chase Water Main 7 Hours Before It Burst — A Chevy Chase resident reported water squirting up from the water main at about 1:15 p.m. A WSSC inspector determined it was a leak in a valve that could hold until morning. At about 7:45 p.m., the five-foot main broke, sending water shooting 30 feet into the air, destroying part of Chevy Chase Lake Drive and closing Connecticut Avenue. [Washington Post]
Plan To Close Randolph Road Meets More Resistance — The State Highway Administration on Thursday presented options to extend Montrose Parkway east from Rockville Pike to the Montgomery County Planning Board. Neighbors aren’t happy with one option that would close Randolph Road at the CSX rail tracks and effectively close off the Randolph Hills Neighborhood from White Flint. [Washington Examiner]
Snow Possible For Sunday, Monday — The area could be hit with a light amount of rain and or snow as next week begins, though forecasters don’t believe it will be cold enough or there will be enough precipitation for a major event. [Capital Weather Gang]
Flickr photo by ehpien
Chevy Chase Water Main Repairs Continue — Two of three northbound Connecticut Avenue lanes are now open as WSSC crews continue work on replacing the broken section of five-foot transmission line that broke on Monday night. Mandatory water restrictions continue. The left lane of northbound Connecticut Avenue remains closed between Dunlop Street and Manor Road. [WSSC]
WSSC Says It Did Receive Warning Of Pipe Break, But Too Late — Fiber-optic cables installed in the Chevy Chase Lake Drive pipe did detect a break was about to occur, but on Monday night just after the pipe had burst. It could be months before a full forensic investigation determines what caused the break and why the sensor did not send alerts before the break. [Washington Post]
House Vote On Transportation Bill Likely Coming Today Or Tomorrow — In a session on the bill on Wednesday, supporters of a gas tax hike turned back a number of referendums from opponents. The bill as originally proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) would raise an estimated $3.4 billion for transportation over the next five years. [Baltimore Sun]
Literary Luncheon Series At Strathmore — Today’s event is the third in a series of four lunch and author speaking events from the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County. At 11:30 a.m., author Bob Deans will discuss his book, “The River Where America Began: A Journey Along the James.” The event takes place at the Strathmore Mansion (10701 Rockville Pike). [Friends of the Library, Montgomery County]
Flickr photo by Matthew Straubmuller
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
UPDATE 5:35 p.m. County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) says he will schedule a meeting of his Transportation & Environment Committee as soon as possible to delve into what went wrong with the Chevy Chase Lake Drive water main break.
He called the break “very troubling,” and said WSSC general manager Jerry N. Johnson indicated he would answer questions at the meeting.
Berliner spoke with Johnson after penning a letter in which he asked for details on the pipe, the last time it was inspected and if acoustic fiber optic monitoring Montgomery helped pay for was ineffective in providing an early warning about the break.
In our conversation, I asked him directly whether the state of the art equipment that was intended to monitor this type of pipe — pipe made of PCCP, which was the type of pipe that burst on River Road several years ago, had been installed on this watermain. Mr. Johnson replied in the affirmative. That response of course raises a host of other questions — including whether the equipment installed was defective or whether WSSC failed to monitor it adequately. They need to have answers, and Mr. Johnson appreciates the urgency of being able to share with our community their assessment of what went wrong. I am scheduling a T&E Committee as soon as possible to provide a forum in which these questions and others can be aired and answered.
Berliner also said the mandatory water restrictions that are still in effect because of the break bring up another issue:
These restrictions are themselves a consequence of another issue that needs to be addressed — there has been a 96 inch main out of service since November. It is the combination of that 96 inch main being down plus this latest break that necessitates the water restrictions. Why the 96 inch main has been out of service this long is very troubling in and of itself and a matter that we will certainly explore with WSSC at the hearing.
ORIGINAL As northbound Connecticut Avenue rush hour traffic crawls by, WSSC officials now say the water main break at Chevy Chase Lake Drive that has caused a significant disruption since last night was larger than first reported.
The transmission line that broke, causing an estimated 60 million gallons of water to gush about 30 feet in the air and spill into the stream below, was actually a 60-inch pipe, not a 54-inch pipe.
Pepco and Washington Gas officials had to secure power and natural gas lines near the break. Montgomery County Police were able to reopen all three southbound lanes of Connecticut Avenue at 7 a.m., but all three northbound lanes remained closed until one was reopened this afternoon.
Part of the clean-up process included dealing with an electric utility pole that fell overnight when a tree, in the rapidly eroding creek bed, fell over.
Power outages resulted from the downed wires. Power was restored throughout the morning. WSSC said no customers were without water service as of this morning.
Photos from WSSC via Facebook
County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) this morning released a letter to WSSC general manager Jerry N. Johnson asking about the status of the 54-inch water main break in Chevy Chase that left downed trees, snarled Connecticut Avenue traffic and mandatory water restrictions in place for Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
The break happened at Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Connecticut Avenue.
WSSC said in a press release this morning that no customers were without water.
Southbound Connecticut Avenue reopened at 7 a.m. this morning, but northbound Connecticut Avenue remains closed between East-West Highway and Jones Bridge Road and traffic remains difficult through the area.
The road closure has led to the closure of the Chevy Chase Library and access to the 8401 Connecticut Avenue office building remains closed off.
WSSC said the pipe that broke began operation around 1980.
Dear Mr. Johnson:
I am writing with regard to the 54 inch water main break that occurred last night (March 18) which has snarled rush hour traffic, led to mandatory water restrictions in Montgomery County, and led to some power outages in the vicinity of the break. I know WSSC is doing everything it can to perform emergency repairs and get the water main back on-line.
Please let me know how many (if any) customers in the area are currently without water (and if so, if WSSC is delivering water to those households), if any vulnerable populations are without water or power at this time, whether there were any injuries resulting from the break, and whether any additional interagency cooperation is needed (with the County, Pepco, or others).
I am also interested in what the status of this section of PCCP pipe is with regard to WSSC’s ongoing large diameter main inspection/repair/acoustic fiber optic monitoring work. It is my understanding that all large diameter pipes (48 inches or greater) will have gone through at least one round of inspections/maintenance/AFO monitoring by the end of FY13. Both the Montgomery and Prince George’s Councils have supported all of WSSC’s funding requests for its large diameter pipe work and it would be of great concern if this segment of pipe had been inspected recently and been found to not need any repairs or if acoustic fiber optic monitoring had been installed but is ultimately ineffective in providing an early warning of an impending break.
Please keep the Council informed as to your progress repairing the main, as well as any information you collect regarding the cause of the break.
Photo via WSSC
UPDATE 6:45 a.m. All WSSC customers are under mandatory water restrictions because of last night’s 54-inch water main break in Chevy Chase, which has northbound Connecticut Avenue shut down with downed trees and utility poles.
The break to one of the WSSC’s transmission mains happened at about 8 p.m. at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Chevy Chase Lake Drive and sent water shooting about 30 feet high, according to WSSC.
The mandatory restrictions mean WSSC’s 1.8 million customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties must 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.
WSSC lost an estimated 60 million gallons of water from the break and wants to make sure fire departments and hospitals have adequate water service.
“Please don’t hoard water,” WSSC general manager Jerry N. Johnson said in a statement. “We’re not running out. But if everyone can cut their water use by 10 percent we should be OK. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and cooperation.”
The break occurred in a Pre-stressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP), WSSC said. It went into operation around 1980 and WSSC said it was unable to determine the cause of the break. There are no customers without water service.
Montgomery County Police this morning said Connecticut Avenue between Jones Bridge Road and East-West Highway would remain closed in both directions until Pepco clears power lines that came down and the area is deemed safe.
The southbound lanes open around 7 a.m.
WSSC said a violation of the mandatory water restriction carries a fine of up to $500.
Small Businesses Face High Price of Operating in Bethesda — With longtime Bethesda favorite Bruce Variety on its way out of Bradley Shopping Center, other small business owners spoke about the financial challenges they face. [The Gazette]
WSSC Begins Final Paving, Opens 1 Southbound Lane of Connecticut Avenue — After yesterday’s water main break left all three southbound lanes at Franklin Street closed and flooded, WSSC says one lane is getting by this morning, the break is fixed and final paving should start at 9 a.m. [WSSC via Twitter]
No Metro Fare Hikes Coming This Year — Metro’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget does not include a fare hike, consistent with the transit system’s policy to make fare change every two years. Metro raised fares last year. Significant track work and more maintenance work will continue. [Washington Post]
Flickr photo by eddie.welker
UPDATE, 7:45 a.m.: WSSC crews are still working on the water main break, which has left two of three southbound lanes of Wisconsin Avenue closed near the intersection with Dorset Avenue.
ORIGINAL: A water main break has shut down all lanes of southbound Wisconsin Avenue at Bradley Boulevard tonight.
The break was reported to WSSC at 5:37 p.m. Residents were told water service should be back later tonight.
Police were diverting southbound traffic to Bradley Boulevard and onto Connecticut Avenue and there was congestion into downtown Bethesda.