CHEVY CHASE, Md. (CBSDC/AP) — The large water pipes buried throughout the Maryland suburbs were installed more than 30 years ago, when industry standards weren’t as strict, and are now considered some of the most problematic in the country.
The Washington Post reports that the poor quality of the concrete mains combined with the high volume of water they carry makes them more susceptible to explosions. Furthermore, the D.C. suburbs have more of the potentially dangerous concrete pipes than almost any other area in the country.
One near Connecticut Avenue and Chevy Chase Lake Drive left a 20-foot crater when it exploded March 18.
The 60-inch break also shot water as high as 30 feet into the air and completely closed the roadway for hours. The enormous force of the break created a massive hole, washed out portions of the road, and brought down traffic lights. Mandatory water restrictions were in place for several days in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said then that the break was likely caused the break by an aging infrastructure.
There’s concern about similar explosions happening in residential areas, beneath land that was vacant when the pipes were initially installed. A total of nine pipe explosions have already occurred since 1996, The Post report says.
Replacing the hundreds of miles of pipe would cost close to $3 billion.
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