Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission crews are dealing with a wave of water main breaks today as temperatures plunge into the single digits.
Around 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 28, the utility confirmed that a 12-inch water main broke near the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Chestnut Street in Bethesda.
“It is safe to say the weather is a factor,” WSSC spokeswoman Lyn Riggins said. “There is unusually cold water moving through our distribution system in the wake of the recent cold snaps.”
The Potomac River is about 33 degrees, the lowest temperature it has been this winter, she said.
In Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the utility was working to fix 69 water main breaks Tuesday — above the daily average for this time of year.
“Things are pretty busy right now,” WSSC spokesman Jim Neustadt said.
According to Riggins, there are no “large transmission” mains broken, which are 16 inches in diameter or larger.
“It is the smaller, distribution mains that are feeling the impact,” she said.
So far this month, WSSC has seen 427 water main breaks and leaks, but that barely touches the utility’s all-time record. In January of 2009, the utility fixed 611 breaks and leaks.
Though a typical water main break takes 4 to 6 hours to repair, Riggins said the process can take longer in cold weather, as crews have to rotate in and out of warm environments like heated vehicles. The utility does not yet have an estimate on when the Wisconsin Avenue break would be repaired.
“Once we dig down on the pipe and see the type of break, we can often give a better estimate on repair time,” Riggins said.
Montgomery County Police have closed all southbound lanes of Wisconsin Avenue between Woodmont Avenue and Battery Lane while the pipe is being fixed.