- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2001

D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) officials are investigating a two-hour delay in their response to a water main break near Washington National Cathedral that damaged a garage bridge and closed a road Sunday morning.
"It was two hours before we responded, and that is too long," WASA spokeswoman Libby Lawson said yesterday. "We are looking at the particular circumstances to see what happened. Residents pay bills and have the expectation and the right to prompt and efficient service."
The spokeswoman attributed the delay to a skeletal staff on Sundays, unlike the rest of the week when crews work "around the clock."
"It can take longer on Sundays because of the time spent assembling workers on call, but it still shouldnt have taken two hours," she said. "Usually our response time is between 15 and 45 minutes."
Repair crews fixed the water main break late yesterday and reopened the road. Now the authority must use a contractor to fix the hole in the bridge leading to the apartment.
A slow leak turned into a deluge in front of an apartment building in the 4100 block of Cathedral Avenue NW shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday. The water mostly spilled down a forested incline, undermining the structure of an adjacent garage bridge and causing a utility pole and street signs to sink. A contractor is expected to repair the bridge and other damage.
On Sunday, firefighters and police officers arrived on the scene after residents noticed the flowing water. They closed the road but were unable to shut off the 8-inch water main. They then waited for WASA crews to arrive.
After the water main was shut down, residents of the adjacent apartment building received temporary water service from fire hydrants and were brought bottled water by WASA employees.
Charles Tidwell, a longtime resident said he woke up Sunday and heard the running water, which his wife attributed to rain.
"It wasnt rain," he said after he went to his balcony to get a better look. "It was a torrent coming out of the drain."
Mr. Tidwell said he called 911 at 6:15 a.m. but the water was not shut off until after 9 a.m.
"I dont understand why it took so long," he said. "The water must have run for at least hours."
Crews hustled yesterday to fix the main and reopen the road to residents as joggers and neighboring residents took advantage of the bright spring day and walked past the site, stopping to peer into the gaping hole.
"Were doing fine," Martin Wallace, a WASA district manager, said. "We made good progress and should be able to open shortly."
He said the repairs took longer than expected because the repair crews found more damage than they had originally expected. He attributed the break to deteriorating pipes that most likely sprung a small leak. That, he said, was probably not noticed because of the pipes location in a ravine.
"It happens," Mr. Wallace said.

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