Prince George's County water outage averted, officials say

Water shelves in parts of the county are barren as residents stock up for the outage. Photo: Kris Van Cleave

A significant water crisis in a portion of southern Prince George's County was averted Wednesday after water officials say that they've made "significant progress" on repairing a large main.

Hundreds of thousands of southern Prince George's County residents were on the brink of being without running water for up to five days while crews repair a 54-inch water main that was on the brink of failure.

However, at a regularly scheduled meeting, WSSC General Manager Jerry Johnson said that it's likely that no customers would lose access to water as long as they followed restrictions that were put into place Tuesday night.

"We have averted a major disaster," said Johnson.

Restrictions, including a ban on watering lawns or washing cars and a request for residents to limit use of showers and washing machines, continue.

The major change came Tuesday night, when WSSC workers closed a key valve near the failing pipe. This means much less pipeline needs to be shut down to finish repairs on the pipeline. Workers earlier couldn’t close the valve.

"If we continue to conserve, I am confident the system will remain full while we complete repairs," Johnson said.

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Johnson said they would likely do the same in the future.

"We know we caused an inconvenience, but we would make the same decisions all over again," he said.

The WSSC says repairs to the pipe will be finished in two to three days. But customers shouldn’t face any disruptions.

MORE: Get the latest on the Prince George's county water outage on the ABC 7 app for iPhone and Android

Officials believed that many as 200,000 residents could have been without water for up to five days.

Donna O'Neal is one of many southern Prince George's County residents breathing a sigh of relief after preparing to be without water for several days.

"Jugs of water in the house just in case it was needed, then at work they brought in porta potties in case members had to use the restrooms,” O’Neal says.

While some businesses will still lose money because guests checked out and booked elsewhere, many residents like Angela McCall couldn't be happier with Wednesday's developments as they will no longer have to worry about saving every precious drop.

"To not be so nervous and worried is a big huge relief and it’s like 90 degrees,. we don't need to not have any water,” McCall says.

Before the line was taken out of service, WSSC filled the area's water system to capacity, then began work. That water was only expected to last for up to 15 hours, though, at which point people will begin losing water and pressure.

Prince George's County Public Schools officials said earlier that summer programs at 63 schools will be closed Wednesday and Thursday at the least. Click here for a list of all schools impacted.

The water restrictions and outage were to impact residents and businesses in the red shaded area below:

The county has opened nearly three dozen community centers as cooling centers. Click on the red dots to get information on each of them:

Officials at the National Harbor have been closely communicating with WSSC and they understand once the water is turned off, most if not all of the businesses here will be forced to shut down.

Affect on residents

Inside Shondra Sprattley's Temple Hills apartment, the water is still on, but the air conditioning isn’t.

Tuesday night, she says her apartment complex sent out a letter telling residents, because of the water main repair, they'd have to have to shut off the water used to run the air conditioning.

To keep cool she's got the blinds shut and fans on. But the thermostat is already climbing.

“My biggest concern is that WSSC didn't think we were in hottest week of year and we have no AC,” she says.

Like many others affected, Shondra and her family stock piled water.

The county put mandatory restrictions in place last night, and so far residents are conserving water.