Arlington water main breaks closes Shirlington roads

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) - Arlington County Sewer Department officials are working to repair a pair of water main breaks that flooded stretches of road in Shirlington Tuesday morning.

Arlington County Police said the first rupture in a 16-inch main was spotted by an officer and reported along a stretch of South Arlington Mill Drive between South Taylor Street and South Randolph Street. around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. Officials said the westbound lanes of South Arlington Mill Drive were closed between South Taylor Street and South Randolph Street.

Arlington water officials said work would be wrapped up by noon, although police said they expected repairs to stretch into the afternoon.

A second, smaller water main break in a 6-inch main occurred about three hours later in a nearby residential neighborhood on South Monroe Street, between 24th and 25th Streets. Officials estimated that repair work there would stretch until 6 p.m.

Officials could not say how many customers were affected, but confirmed that the breaks are unrelated and that one break did not cause the other.

A spokesman for Arlington County Public Schools said nearby Abingdon Elementary School would be closed Tuesday because the water main rupture had disrupted water service to the school.

“I've lived here for four or five years and this never happens," said Anthony Lee, who lives by S. Arlington Mill.

"First there was no water, then all of a sudden I turned it on, heard some sputtering and no pressure, then just brown nastiness," he said.

These two water main breaks happened to occur just one day after two others across the river – one in Northeast D.C. and the other in Gaithersburg. And taxpayers want to know just what’s going on.

In Arlington, officials say the cold weather causes the pipes to contract and crack, and because the county says they’re old, many could crack at any time.

"Every winter we're gonna see them, because when it gets cold that's what happens," said Professor Frank Shafroth, a public policy expert at George Mason University. He explains that funding police and fire is one thing, but old underground pipes is yet another.

"You pay for things that voters and taxpayers see, but it's harder to get the votes to increase taxes or fees for things they don't see," he said.