By Mark F. Gray, Staff Writer,

A crumbling infrastructure continued to affect residents in southern Prince George’s County when a water main broke forced massive traffic congestion and a boil water advisory issued by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) on March 31.

While the advisory was issued primarily for precautionary reasons, residents in Fort Washington near National Harbor were advised to sanitize their water before consuming or using it for necessities such as brushing teeth or making baby formula for at least two days following the break.  It also caused significant traffic delays while repairs were being made.

A water main break caused a boil water advisory issued by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) in southern Prince George’s County and major traffic delays in the D.C. area. (Courtesy Photo)

A portion of MD Rt. 210 was closed last Sunday afternoon when a water main broke sent a large shower more than 10 feet into the air.  The northbound lane of Indian Head Highway between Fort Washington and Old Fort Road was closed from approximately 2:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon through 12:00 a.m. Monday morning when repair crews finally were able make enough repairs to reopen one lane. Traffic heading southbound was temporarily delayed until approximately 2:30 p.m.

However, rush hour traffic Monday morning was reduced to moving at a snail’s pace as the work week began.  The delays were chronic as the volume of early morning traffic on one of the busiest thoroughfares for government employees, who travel into the District of Columbia and northern Virginia daily, tested the patience of drivers.  Many had already been inconvenienced by having to sanitize their water for use before leaving home and took to social media.

“They still ain’t fix this water main break on Maryland Rt. 210,” motorist Brian Simpkins posted on Twitter. “I left earlier than usual to make it to PGCC on time. All the back roads clogged up. Still ran into bumper to bumper traffic w/in the Tantallion neighborhood.”

“We will make repairs as quickly as possible but please keep in mind this is a large main and it could take longer than a typical repair because of the size,” WSSC responded in a tweet.

The shower was described as a “geyser” in some reports, as it sent gallons of water into the air when the 36-inch water main broke, according to the WSSC.  Callers to WTOP-FM’s Traffic Center reported seeing water spraying and carrying small debris across the roadway. WSSC took the precautionary steps because water quality experts were not able to test samples from the affected area to ensure it was safe for consumption until the repairs were completed.

“Until we can run tests and know that the water is safe … we want people to boil that water so that the water they’re consuming they know is absolutely safe to consume,” said spokesperson Lyn Riggins in a broadcast report.

There has been an ominous comparison to a 2013 water main break on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase when a 60 inch main ruptured.  That water main break caused a massive sinkhole and the damage took several weeks to repair.  If that were to happen in this part of the area, it could be catastrophic.

The County has been working to repair its share of potholes in southern Maryland over the past few weeks as temperatures have slightly warmed up. In some residential communities as far north as Capitol Heights improvements beneath the surface have begun in conjunction with other development projects. However, the aging infrastructure beneath the surface has become a major concern.  Ongoing corporate and real estate development coupled with the age of its internal infrastructure is putting a greater strain on the integrity of the underground pipes, not only in southern Maryland, but throughout the county.