All around the Maryland/DC area, water main breaks should come as no surprise to residents; but, we are all amazed each time it happens! And…it is happening with alarming frequency.
In mid June water main breaks in the Maryland suburbs triggered several smaller breaks throughout the lines in the County leading to the loss of more than 100 million gallons of fresh water before repairs could be made. More than 700 restaurants and tens of thousands of residents were forced to boil drinking water as a precautionary measure. Many restaurants, already affected by the slowing economy, had to close their doors for a period of time. The agency responsible for oversight, inspection and repair, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is the 8th largest water and wastewater utility in the country. As of July 15, they still cannot assess what caused the break.
This past week WSSC, echoing other public agencies across the US, discussed the need for more money. We heard the now familiar chant “We need more money….more funding”. WSSC reported that due to budget constraints, the line that broke in Maryland was never inspected prior to the break. It is reported that the line that broke was 38 years old, while some lines in the county are 90 years old. After the break, inspectors found four other sections nearby that needed reinforcement.
Here is where it gets dicey: it is documented that for the past two years WSSC has had the budget to replace 27 miles of water main a year, but it replaced only 16 miles of pipe in fiscal 2007 and is expected to fix 25 miles of pipe in fiscal 2008. What happened? They had the money….had the funding. Where did it go?
We are seeing increases in taxes, electric bills, gas, water. The war has cost more than anyone wants to wrap their minds around. Who is overseeing the money that the agencies are getting? Who is accountable? And, where are they now?