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Olney pipe repaired, sewage spill upstream from Laurel ends

WSSC officials: Laurel's water 'safe to drink'

By Melanie Dzwonchyk, mdzwonchyk@patuxent.com

2:25 PM EST, March 9, 2013

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After nearly five days of sewage flowing into the Reddy Branch Pumping Station upstream from Laurel, which was caused by a broken water main in Olney, WSSC officials announced the pipe had been repaired, the sewage seepage had ended and the pumping station reopened around 4 a.m. Saturday.

The drinking water in Laurel was safe to consume during the sewage flow and repair efforts, according to WSSC spokeswoman Kira Calm Lewis.

On Tuesday, the Reddy Branch Wastewater Pumpinn Station was shut down and Olney residents were asked to curb their water usage. As of Friday, close to 1.5 million gallons of wastewater had flowed into Reddy Branch Creek because of the sewer main break, WSSC officials said.

According to WSSC officials, Reddy Branch Creek feeds into Hawlings River, which eventually feeds into the Patuxent River upstream from Rocky Gorge reservoir, the source of water for Laurel’s Patuxent Water Filtration Plant on Sweitzer Lane.

But, the WSSC officials were quick to claim that water supplied to its customers was safe to drink during the sewage seepage and repair work.

“It absolutely is safe because of how many gallons of water that this is going to run through before it even gets to Rocky Gorge,” Lewis said Thursday, adding that the reservoir currently has about 5 billion gallons of water.

WSSC environmental science engineers have been testing the water daily, Lewis said.

In a release Thursday, WSSC officials also gave assurance that it was safe for customers to drink water and that "it is doubtful that pathogens can survive the current water temperature."

Overflow was hauled by trucks from the Reddy Branch Wastewater Pumping Station on Brighton Dam Road, so the station could be shut down to relieve pressure on the sewer main during the repair efforts, according to the WSSC release.

For more information, call the WSSC Emergency Customer Call Center at 301-206-4002.

This story has been updated.