Water main shutoff in P.G. means changing habits in summer heat

Tens of thousands of Prince George’s County residents were preparing Tuesday to spend the hottest week so far this year without running water, thanks to a failing underground pipeline that urgently needs to be replaced.

Officials with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said the water flow to the failing pipe was set to be turned off at 9 p.m. Tuesday and might not return for five days while workers remove and replace the 54-inch concrete tube that runs underground at Suitland Parkway and Forestville Road. WSSC officials said their monitoring system has noted a growing number of wire breaks in the concrete pipe, which is a signal that this type of pipe is failing.

Spokesman I.J. Hudson said residents in the affected area should have 12 to 15 hours worth of water once the pipe is shut off, but that the time would depend on residents’ conservation efforts.

“The clock really starts running when the pipe goes out of service,” Mr. Hudson said.

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said the county was prepared to open two sites to provide residents with bathrooms and showers and multiple cooling centers as needed. He also stressed the importance of stocking as much water as possible, whether bottled water or even filling bathtubs with tap water.

“Come [Wednesday] morning when everyone gets up to take showers, it’s gonna run out quick,” Mr. Baker said. “The main thing is we’ve got to get through these days and then figure out where we are.”

As of Tuesday, county residents and businesses were preparing for the fallout of not having water for toilets, showers and, in some cases, air conditioners, during a week that weather forecasters said would hover near 100 degrees.

“This is a perfect time for the water to go out, during a heat wave,” Mr. Baker said sarcastically during a news conference Tuesday at the Prince George’s County Office of Emergency Management. “This is unique, but we’re going to get through this.”

The communities affected by the disruption include Andrews Air Force Base, Morningside, Hillcrest Heights, Camp Springs, Forest Heights, Temple Hills, Oxon Hill, and National Harbor. They are home to between 150,000 and 200,000 people, officials said.

Shelves were bare in many grocery and convenience stores, and many customers could be seen walking to their cars toting large bags of ice.

As he packed his navy blue Cadillac DeVille with ice bags and cases of water, 75-year-old Clinton resident John Sullivan said he had already started filling up his bathtubs with water and was prepared to check on several elderly neighbors who could suffer in the heat.

“I filled the tub, but after a few days the water is not good for drinking,” Mr. Sullivan said. “But there’s plenty of rivers and streams, not for drinking, but for washing and for cooling off.”

At Roozen Nursery and Garden Centers in Fort Washington, Eric Roozen was preparing to take a financial hit.

The 65-year-old garden center owner said he already had watered his five acres of plants and flowers twice by midday Tuesday.

“There’s no rain in the forecast,” he said. “We may lose a bunch of plants.”

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