Vincent Morris, a resident of ANC 6C and a Government Affairs employee with DC Water presented to the Wednesday, Jan 10th meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C, touching on issues of water problems brought on by the recent cold weather as well as issues related to new water meters.
Breaks, leaks and valves
Morris told meeting attendees that the recent cold snap had affected the water system in the District just as it had affected virtually every system throughout the northeast region of the United States.
Noting that the average age of water mains in the District is 79 years, Morris added that some of the infrastructure was constructed out of cast iron and installed as early as the 1800s. However, he said that extreme cold resulted in breakages regardless of the age of pipes, adding that over the past month Prince George County and Fairfax, VA had also experienced problems despite newer infrastructure.
Morris said that since Dec. 1st, DC Water had repaired 141 breaks, leaks and valves throughout the District, 77 of those since Dec. 30th. As of his report, he said there were 15 repairs actively in progress and that DC Water hoped to have the system restored to normal by the weekend or early next week.
He thanked the public for reporting leaks and breakages, adding that if leaks were not immediately resolved it was possible that crews were engaged elsewhere. Another factor in the speed of repairs, he added, was that DC Water had to frequently consult with utility companies in regard to gas, electric and traffic infrastructure, especially in cases where excavation was necessary.
Morris said that DC Water was in the process of replacing all of the water meters, the devices used to assess water usage and billing, throughout the District, saying that residents may have noted the covers in their tree boxes or sidewalk in front of the house.
He said that some covers had been reported as ill-fitting, and asked that residents report these to DC Water so that they can be replaced.
In response to a question about meter-reading, Morris said that water meter boxes should not be covered by soil, mulch or landscaping as this affects the meter reading. He said that a transmitter on the meter sends a signal to DC Water several times a day, providing information on usage. If that system is unable to transmit, DC Water will be unable to detect sudden spikes in usage that might indicate a leak.
Everyone has a meter pit in front of their home, he added, whether in the tree box or sidewalk. That meter pit is technically public space. If the pit is covered by landscaping or mulch, readings are impossible. He said sometimes meter readings are impossible by personnel because meters are covered in this manner, and personnel are sometimes reluctant to annoy homeowners by digging in yards to locate meters, although he reminded residents that meters are always located in areas deemed to be public space.
Morris said that water main breaks or leaks or ill-fitting water meter covers should be reported to DC Water. He recommended that residents use the Water and Sewer Emergency number, which he said linked directly to the DC Water Command Center and was staffed 24/7. That number is 202-612-3400.