90-year-old water main bursts, floods businesses

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- Surprised business owners and customers were sent scrambling just after 10 a.m. Wednesday as a flash flood that appeared to come from nowhere on a sunny morning inundated at least three businesses near the intersection of Flower Ave and Piney Branch Road.

It was the latest water main break to plague the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. In this case, the 12-inch pipe in question was 90 years old, according to WSSC spokesman Jerry Irvine.

Ngussu Gudu estimated the damage to his sparkling new Ethiopian grocery and deli at close to $30,000. Gudu's Adarash Grocery received nearly a foot of muddy floodwater that left the floors covered in mud and stones.

The break happened in front of Reliable Cleaners at 8736 Flower Ave. Store owner Helen Kim rallied her employees to push back the flood with mops at the threshold of her front door. Still, the floors were soaked.

"This is crazy," Kim said.

Just before 5:00 p.m., WSSC announced the repairs were complete and all lanes on Flower Avenue were open. 

It was the second break of the morning. Earlier, another 90-year-old pipe burst on East-West Highway in Riverdale disrupting morning rush hour traffic.

"Its an illustration of the aging infrastructure we have in the system," said Irvine.

The WSSC is replacing about 55 miles of obsolete water pipe annually at a cost of approximately $1 million per mile. Even so, Irvine says there are pipes nearly a century old that may not be replaced for another one or two decades.

"We have to balance the need to get the pipes out of the ground with the need not to overburden customers with rate increases," Irvine said.

The WSSC is averaging 1800 water main bursts per year over the last five years.

Store owners may file claims with the WSSC to recover damages from Tuesday's incident.

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Water main break closes Piney Branch Road


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