- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2008

The cause of a water-main break that left a stretch of River Road in Bethesda under four feet of water may not be known for weeks. Repair work began Wednesday and will last through Christmas in the hopes of restoring use of the busy commuter route by this weekend, though water may not return until Monday, officials said.

“They have to do a lot of excavation in the area,” said John White, a spokesperson 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.”

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

The enormous main unleashed millions of gallons of water Tuesday morning and stranded nine people, who had to be rescued by boat and helicopter. The one-mile stretch of road 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.

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

“This water-main break underlines the urgency of addressing [Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission] infrastructure needs. We have included such projects in our county proposal of ‘ready to go’ projects for the federal stimulus program,” Mr. Leggett said Tuesday.

Ross Contracting Inc., which won a $510,000 contract to fix the water main and the road for the sanitary commission, said they expect to have six to 10 people working on Christmas and through the weekend to make the roadway and pipe operations as quick as possible.

The Mt. Airy-based company, which also fixed a break in a 36-inch water main in Rockville that cut off water service to a large area of northern Montgomery County in June, said the project will require between six to 10 tons of materials. That number could change as the full scope of the construction is seen.

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

Meanwhile, Aggregate Industries, a Rockville building materials company will provide materials for the construction.

Officials said there was another smaller water-main break in the vicinity at 8912 Seven Locks Rd., though it had not yet been determined if the new break was related to Tuesday’s break. The smaller break, which occurred around 9 a.m. on Wednesday, was fixed by noon and did not cause any major problems, though it did force local motorists to use a detour from the detour already used because of the River Road problems.

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