Target: Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC)
Goal: Repair or replace water pipes in Maryland suburbs to protect residents from aging, explosive utilities.
For several decades, the Maryland suburbs have been home to the worst failed concrete pipes of any major U.S. water utility. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission owns 350 miles of concrete pipes in the area, many of which carry high volumes of pressurized water. According to The Washington Post, these pipes are “prone to exploding without warning.”
Since 1996, nine pipes have exploded. The most recent break produced a five-story tall geyser and left a 20-foot deep crater in a Maryland suburb. 1,768 homes, schools, and buildings are located within an 80-foot danger zone around these aging pipes.
Decaying pipes present not only a public safety hazard, but also are inefficient and costly for businesses and homeowners. The Post found that aging infrastructure has resulted in a 50 percent increase in utility rates over the past six years, a pattern that is expected to continue.
The Maryland suburbs experienced unanticipated growth in the 1960s and 1970s, forcing WSSC to undergo a rapid expansion of its water distribution system over a short period. This led to hasty and poor decision making with the utility taking short cuts through cheap sourcing, materials, and installation. Industry standards at that time contained dangerous flaws later found to weaken pipes. Concrete was used as a cheaper and more readily available resource, as opposed to modern pipes, which are now made of steel.
Although WSSC has been inspecting its pipes more closely than in previous years, their current break-detection equipment is insufficient to prevent a tragedy if pipes were to suddenly break in a populated area. The WSSC must make it their top priority to modernize its vulnerable pipe system and prevent these potentially explosive forces from harming residents or infrastructure.
Dear Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission,
We urge you to invest into finding a solution to the aging and weakened pipes that have already devastated neighborhoods in the Maryland suburbs.
The materials and practices used 40 years ago in the manufacturing of these potentially explosive pipes have been proven ineffective and harmful. Utilities must adapt to more advanced technology and refined industry standards to ensure safety and economic efficiency.
As challenging and expensive as the task may be, this threat must be addressed immediately to protect residents and businesses in the Maryland suburbs.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Jack Lyons via Flickr