- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The cause of a water-main break Tuesday in Bethesda that left a stretch of River Road under 4 feet of water may not be known for weeks, but repair work began Wednesday and will go on through Christmas in the hopes of restoring the use of the major thoroughfare by this weekend, though water may not return to the main until Monday, officials said.

“They have to do a lot of excavation in the area,” said John White, a spokesman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. “There is water still in the hole, and they cut out damaged portions of the pipe and put in a new portion. We expect several days before the pipe repairs are done.”

Repair crews used pumps to remove the water from the 15-foot-deep hole caused by the water-main break. The crew also removed significant debris, including several large fallen trees, from the 50-by-30-foot hole.

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The enorormous main unleashed millions of gallons of water Tuesday morning and stranded nine people and required rescues by boats and a helicopter. The area where the break happened, near Congressional Country Club, is a wealthy suburb of Washington more likely to be subject to golf tournament traffic jams than a water-main eruption.

Ross Contracting Inc., which won a $510,000 contract to fix the water main and the road for the WSSC, said it expects to have six to 10 people working on Christmas and through the weekend to make the roadway and pipe repairs as quickly as possible. The Mount Airy-based contracting company, which also fixed a 36-inch water-main break in Rockville that cut off water service to a large area of northern Montgomery County in June, said the project will require between six and 10 tons of materials, though that number could change as the full scope of the constuction is determined.

“This is a dynamic situation,” said James Holcomb, vice president of construction at the company.

Meanwhile, Aggregate Industries, a Rockville building materials company than planned to remain closed on Friday, will open to provide materials for the consutruction.

Another smaller water main broke Wednesday at 8912 Seven Locks Road, in the vicinity of Tuesday’s break, though it had not yet been determined whether the two breaks are related, WSSC officials said. The smaller break, which occurred about 9 a.m., was fixed by noon and did not cause any major problems.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley visited the site of the break Wednesday morning along with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett to discuss the incident, agency cooperation and restoration efforts.

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