Crews with the Department of Environmental Services’ Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau repaired 47 water mains in January, as of 6 p.m. Monday, with two repairs in progress and six planned, said DES spokesman Peter Golkin.
By comparison, January 2021 saw 30 main breaks, up from 19 in January 2020 and eight in January 2019, he noted.
“Recent winters have been fairly mild,” Golkin tells ARLnow. “But we are seeing an upward trend for breaks over the past four years.”
Arlington has about 500 miles of pipes that bring water to homes and businesses. Of those, about 60% are cast iron pipes more than 50 years old — and thus prone to leaking.
“So age is a factor in the sense of which type of iron we’re dealing with,” he said. “Arlington’s cast iron pipes were not lined with a protective coating to prevent corrosion. While for the most part they’re in good condition, over time the inner and outer diameter thins. Then, factor in winter and the differences in temperature between pipe, water and surrounding soil and you get stresses on the pipes.”
When mains break, crews stop the flow of water, which can cause temporary service disruptions to some properties. Repairs can take six to eight hours from when leaks are reported but could take longer if they’re on a major water line and involve significant damage.
And right now, responding to leaks is a grueling job, Golkin says.
“Crew safety and health is always the preeminent concern in responding, especially with bitter temperatures, darkness and Covid protocols,” he said. “But our professionals know what’s required and can usually complete a job in 6-8 hours despite all sorts of conditions. And they have to be prepared around the clock, seven days a week.”
Saluting the Water, Sewer, Streets Bureau professionals who, in an unusually intense winter, make massive water main breaks look like they never happened. Literally the difference between night and day in less than 24 hours. #TheOtherFirstResponders https://t.co/8YbKyxDQSg pic.twitter.com/QWElkH1g5b
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) January 23, 2022
Per location data from the county’s online map of leaks and repairs, crews had to respond to the same address twice in a half-dozen recent cases. Golkin says that’s typical.
“Repairing a water main naturally generates stress on the line, which can lead to nearby follow-up breaks,” Golkin said. “So if a certain neighborhood has had a repair, then there’s an increased chance that another problem might soon develop on the same block.”
When multiple leaks happen concurrently, the bureau prioritizes repairs based on the number of residents impacted, he said.
“DES prioritizes by the impact of each break, so if there is a repair needed in a residential neighborhood, that would get first attention compared to a break next to office buildings closed for the night or a weekend,” Golkin said. “Sometimes a break doesn’t mean a loss of water service, possibly due to redundancy in the water main network. That can give the bureau flexibility in scheduling a repair.”
The bureau also calls in contractors to help as needed.
While DES is fixing leaky mains, it’s also replacing some and rehabilitating others as part of a decades-old Capital Improvement Program.
For the current CIP, which started in July 2021 and will end in June 2024, Arlington budgeted $5 million a year for water main replacements and $1.5 million a year for rehabilitation.
By 2040, Arlington aims to replace all of its 4-inch mains and smaller “temporary” lines that were installed before the 1940s. Golkin says the county replaces more than 1% of pipes in the system annually.
For example, this fall the county will spend $1.6 million to build a new water main along Key Blvd from N. Jackson Street to N. Danville Street in Lyon Village. It will replace an aging water main built in 1927 that the county said was experiencing an “excessive number of breaks.”
By 2040, Arlington aims to clean and line another 250 miles of water mains, a cheaper and less disruptive process than replacement. Golkin says the rehabilitation program addresses 1-2% of the system annually.
Meantime, with lows in the 20s and 30s, residents can take a number of steps to prevent winter-induced stress on their own pipes, as seen below.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) January 26, 2022
Golkin encouraged those who suspect a water main break to call Arlington’s 24-hour Water and Sewer Emergency Control Center at (703) 228-6555. They can also check the online map or the DES Twitter feed to see the latest planned repairs.
In loving memory of Joseph Robert Kapacziewski, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 41.
In loving memory of James Stuart Edmonds, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 84.
A man was shot in front of a lounge on Columbia Pike early this morning, continuing a string of violent incidents.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 17124 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
YULA’s ultimate frisbee spring season is now open for registration. We offer programs for middle and high schoolers – open to all players, whether they are new or have previous experience.Middle SchoolIn the Middle School league, mixed-gender teams practice once during the week and have games on Sunday afternoons. Spring league is a fun, safe, and positive environment. The season begins mid-March and wraps up with a tournament in early June. There are several options for practice days, so we can often work around schedule conflicts with other sports & activities.High SchoolThe High School program is organized by school of attendance and teams are classified by gender. New players will learn the basics in a supportive, welcoming environment. Experienced players will continue to develop their skills, and enjoy competition with other high school programs. The season concludes with a state level championship tournament in late May.All players are guided by experienced coaches who emphasize sportsmanship and good spirit. Ultimate is a fun sport with great camaraderie!YULA does not want finances to limit anyone from participating. Our middle school program offers a “Pay What You Can” cost structure and our our high school program is offering a $50 discount to new players.Visit our website to register and learn more. Sign up with a friend, but don’t delay, the season starts in March!http://www.yula-ulti.org
The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village