Thursday, June 19, 2008

We have water!

Late Sunday evening a very large water main burst on the other side of the county followed by another water main breakage the next morning much closer to my house. Both breakages caused nearly 100 million gallons of water to gush into Rock Creek Park and Lake Frank. After they managed to get the water back on, the entire county was put on mandatory water restrictions: no laundry, no washing dishes, and limited flushing. The kicker was that we were also required to boil all drinking water for at least a minute in case of bacteria contamination for three days.

While this didn't seem to be too much a hardship: I simply put on a pot and a teakettle to boil first thing every morning and then again when I got home to ensure we had water for us and for Riley and Shelby. I kept a bottle of boiled water in the fridge and kept a small bottle near my sink so we could brush our teeth. Apparently, boiling water was waaaaaaaaay to difficult for a lot of people to handle and there was a mad rush for water at every grocery store in the county. On Monday, we thought about picking up a couple of gallons of water on the way home from Virginia for us and a friend just in case, but a nasty thunderstorm rolled through and knocked out power to all the grocery stores (and traffic lights) in that area! After sitting in traffic, not moving for a very long time to try yet one more grocery store, we gave up and went home to boil some water.

Meanwhile, back in Montgomery County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, people were loading up entire shopping carts with bottled water and hoarding it like Hobbits trying to keep that precious ring. I was amazed at the selfishness I saw on the news. I didn't buy any water and I managed to make due just fine. It's not like we didn't have any water at all, we just had to boil it for one minute! It's not difficult. Last summer when I was going through chemo, I probably would have bought a few bottles just to be on the safe side, but not a whole shopping cart. I might have been more careful with my toothbrush because I did catch myself a couple of times rinsing my toothbrush in the sink instead of my pre-boiled bottle of water. I survived, though and the water tested clean late last night so we can all go back to not boiling our water. Oh, the hardship.

One big problem that resulted in the lack of clean water was nearly every restaurant in the county was shut down! Monday morning we stopped at Starbucks and I had an iced chai. I don't think they heard about the water restrictions that morning, but they were closed the next day. We didn't think it was a big deal with the coffee because they have to boil the water, right? Well, apparently not long enough. All restaurants, from diners to McDonald's to fancy schmancy were all closed or on limited operations: only pre-packaged food could be sold. No fountain sodas (ice), tea, or coffee. My parents went to Bugaboo Creek Monday night and they were open and serving on paper plates with paper napkins. They didn't serve any tea or coffee, but they were open for business. I have a feeling they shouldn't have been open and were probably shut down on Tuesday.

Thankfully everything is finally back to normal. I celebrated by eating out for lunch today and had an iced tea - in Virginia, where I work. :-)


Gila said...

Between this and the impact of the gas price rise, it has been interesting to see how 'fragile' our current lifestyle is.

FirePhrase said...

I'm trying to break the bottled water habit altogether. I bought a water filter pitcher (tap in Texas can smell and taste pretty funky), and for the most part just keep a few bottles of water on hand for guests and outdoor activities. It has the side effect that I don't have to haul those giant flats of water any more. Good deal all the way around if you ask me. But filling the pitcher only takes about 30 seconds. I don't know if I'd be able to hold out a full minute.

victory4angela said...

We couldn't even just fill the pitcher, we had to wait for the boiled water to cool down. We couldn't drink the water after we boiled it because we couldn't put ice in it. That's why I boiled a pot of water in the morning and put a jug in the fridge for when I got home. I meant to bring in an empty bottle from home and fill up with VA tap water. Never got around to it.

Anonymous said...

Downcounty here - below the beltway - we avoided all of that. Water was just fine. HOWEVER the misinformation was rampant and for the first 2 days or so none of us knew if the water was okay or not and just where the boundary of contimation was.

We had our own big break down here on Piney-Branch Rd the week before we had NO water service --- that is much worse IMHO - nothing to boil, flush toilets with, take a quick shower, nada -- there was the typical run on bottled water at the markets here as WSSC told us they had NO IDEA when water would be back - then it was back that eve - go figure - I guess Ginat had a good $ day.
I was in good position as I always keep a bucket in my shower to collect gray water - that nicely flushes the toilet if needed, but is really for watering my plants. I also had enough stored "Y2K water" for drinking and a rain barrel to weather we through.
But lessons were learned - mostly that my neighbors need to get on the stick and you all need to save your empty milk jugs and 2-liter soda bottles - clean them and fill them up now and store them for emergencies just like this -- not being able to flush your toilet or rinse off anything for a day is NOT a good thing.
- KJ

Anonymous said...

PS the site won;t let me log in - after6 tries - I just did it as "anon"
- KJ