Md. Leaders Seek Help for Main Breaks

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, and Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) officials recently said America must invest in water and sewer infrastructure to protect the public and create jobs.

The press conference, held at WSSC’s Lyttonsville Service Center in Silver Spring, Md., cames just one month after a water main break flooded River Road, trapping motorists in a four-foot wall of rushing water. Footage of the rescue effort was carried live on MSNBC and CNN.

“The water main break that flooded River Road underscored the need for a major investment in our nation’s infrastructure. We need to invest not just in our highways and byways, but also in our water and sewer systems, which is our nation’s invisible infrastructure,” said Senator Mikulski. “We cannot wait until another crisis occurs to make these investments. The time to act is now.”

WSSC has 5,500 miles of underground water mains and nearly 25 percent of that is over 50 years old and will reach the end of their useful life by 2025. WSSC officials said there have been over 4,000 breaks in the last two years. In the last month, there have been more than 500 breaks and leaks. Tens of thousands of people were put under a Boil Water Advisory. Tens of thousands more were without water for hours, and in some cases days.

“Montgomery County families and businesses depend on an adequate water and sewer infrastructure,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett. “If we are to make less likely the kinds of scenes we’ve witnessed in this county with the summer water main break and with the most recent break on River Road, then we need a partnership between federal and local governments to invest resources now -- so we can avoid inconveniences and threats to the public safety in the future. These investments can help us put aging public infrastructure back together and help put more people back to work.”

“This recent cold snap also snapped hundreds of our pipes,” said WSSC Interim General Manager Teresa D. Daniell. “But what really concerns us is that this situation will only get worse and we will have more breaks more often. This problem didn’t emerge overnight and it cannot be fixed overnight. Our health, our safety, our economic well- being and our lifestyle are all at stake.”

The economic recovery package the Senate is working on will include major investments in America’s aging infrastructure. The House of Representatives’ version of the bill, which passed earlier this month, included $30 billion for highway and bridge construction, $19 billion for water and environmental projects, $10 billion for the nation’s public transit and rail systems, and $54 billion in energy infrastructure investments to create new green jobs.

“If we are going to get our economy back on the right track, we must redouble our efforts to rebuild America's infrastructure. The economic recovery bill Congress is working on with President Obama provides much needed investments for shovel-ready projects here in Maryland that will create jobs and jumpstart our economy,” said Van Hollen. “I look forward to working hand in hand with Senator Mikulski, County Executive Leggett, and the President to ensure that our community and Maryland benefits from this critical legislation.”

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