WSSC Details #WinterReady Plans Ahead of Busy Water Main Break Season

| News Release



Laurel, Md. – November 29, 2018: Standing at the intake of WSSC’s massive Potomac Water Filtration Plant, along the banks of the Potomac River -- the primary source of drinking water for 1.8 million customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties -- WSSC General Manager and CEO Carla Reid detailed the utility’s extensive #WinterReady plans surrounded by front-line crews, pipes, trucks, tools and leak detection equipment. There is a direct connection between dropping water temperatures in the Potomac River and the increase in water main breaks.

“Winter is water main break season, and WSSC crews are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us,” said Reid. “We keep a close eye on the temperature of the Potomac River, knowing that when the water temps drop, we see an increase in breaks. Our crews are ready to repair these breaks 24/7, and restore service to our customers as quickly as possible.”

WSSC typically sees an increase in breaks a few days after the Potomac River temperature hits a new low. The dropping water temperature can “shock” water mains, causing breaks. WSSC’s pipes become accustomed to the cold water, but when the water temperature hits a new low, officials see a spike in breaks. It was nearly one year ago when bone-chilling temperatures led to an all-time-record 802 water main breaks and leaks in January 2018. This chart shows the connection between the river temperature and water main breaks.

WSSC maintains more than 5,700 miles of water mains throughout both counties. On average, WSSC crews repair more than 1,800 water main breaks and leaks each year, with the vast majority of them, approximately 1,200, occurring between November and February. WSSC has already repaired approximately 200 breaks and leaks in November.

“Our maintenance facilities are stocked with all the necessary materials and equipment to handle this expected increase in water main breaks,” said WSSC Utility Services Director Damion Lampley. “When we experience a high volume of breaks, we prioritize repairs based on factors such as number of customers affected and impact to major roadways. Because some breaks may take longer to repair, we ask customers for their patience and understanding.”

At today’s event, WSSC crews demonstrated how to repair a typical “circle” break on a pipe and displayed the latest in leak detection equipment used to pinpoint tricky water main leaks. Potomac Plant crews also operated a large claw-like tool used to keep water flowing into the plant when ice forms on the Potomac River.

Nearly 40 percent of WSSC water mains are more than 50 years old. With such a large water distribution network spanning both counties, customers are encouraged to report water main breaks and leaks as quickly as possible.

There are three simple ways to report a break:

The “Report a Problem” feature on WSSC’s Mobile App allows customers to easily snap a picture of water and sewer problems and send it directly to the Emergency Call Center. The application uses GPS to pinpoint the location of the image, which allows WSSC dispatchers to send an inspector to the location.

WSSC maintains the pipes in the streets and the connections up to the property line. If a pipe in a home freezes, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to repair.

What to do if a home plumbing pipe freezes:

  • Completely open the cold water faucet nearest the frozen pipe. This relieves the pressure and reduces the chance of a rupture.
  • Use a hand-held dryer if you decide to thaw the pipe yourself.
  • When in doubt, call a registered plumber.

Homeowner winterization tips:

  • Keep the temperature inside your home above 55 degrees.
  • Turn off the water to outside faucets, remove hoses and drain the pipes.
  • Inquire within your local hardware store about pipe insulation.
  • On colder nights, open cabinet doors to expose pipes to the home’s heat.

Find more #WinterReady information here. A video of ice on the river being cleared from WSSC’s Potomac Water Filtration Plant intake is available for download.

WSSC Water is the proud provider of safe, seamless and satisfying water services, making the essential possible every day for our neighbors in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. We work to deliver our best because it’s what our customers expect and deserve.

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