By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]

Problems with the Prince George’s County infrastructure continued when an overflowing pipe sent millions of gallons of sewage into Broad Creek in Fort Washington, Md.

The Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission reported that approximately 5.22 million gallons of wastewater was dumped into the creek thanks to the bad pipe at the WSSC Broad Creek Wastewater Pumping Station on Livingston Road. Since the WSSC’s water and wastewater systems are separate, the overflow did not affect WSSC’s drinking water for area residents.

On August 9 the Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission reported that approximately 5.22 million gallons of wastewater was dumped into the creek thanks to the bad pipe at the WSSC Broad Creek Wastewater Pumping Station on Livingston Road. (Courtesy Photo)

Crews worked for approximately 12 hours to fix the problem, which is known as a Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO).  It began just after 11 a.m. and was completed slightly past 11:30 p.m August 9. The WSSC’s preliminary investigation to determine the cause of the overflows indicates a pipe buried approximately 30-feet deep at the station may have failed leading to the major water leak.

WSSC crews initially posted signs around the area warning people to stay clear as repair and clean up efforts began. They also applied lime around the area to help with the smell.

The pumping station ultimately resumed normal operations and there were no additional problems reported.  Notifications were also made to the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Prince George’s County Health Department to ensure public safety.

Water main breaks and the damage they cause continue to be a problem in this affluent, primarily Black community in southern Maryland.  The strain of redevelopment appears to be a constant problem in some areas adjacent to National Harbor. During last month’s major storms, water drainage could not keep up with the intensity of the rain and the rising waters from that deluge in several communities.  It led to major flooding in homes and crippled traffic as some streets were submerged.

This is the second time that this southern Maryland community has been alerted to a water issue since April.   Approximately 23,000 customers were impacted when a water main break caused a small portion of the water system to lose pressure forcing those residents to boil their drinking for three days. The area affected was MD-210 (Indian Head Hwy.) west toward the Potomac River and from the Washington, D.C. line south. During that incident a water main ruptured along Indian Head Highway, which sent water into the air.  

The recent incidents are the latest in what is becoming a consistent problem in the area.  Since 2016 there have been several major water main breaks in that vicinity. That June in Fort Washington – near the intersection of Swann Creek Road and Gable Lane – a blast caused a water main break that was so powerful it sent pieces of concrete from the sidewalk into the sky while shooting water almost 30 feet into the air.  Some of the falling debris caused damage to vehicles in the area. 

However, this recent SSO emergency didn’t cause major damage, nor was it the massive inconvenience like the others.  It does continue to underscore how the aging underground infrastructure is struggling to operate in the constantly developing area.