For Howard's water mains, a season of bad breaks arrives

Throughout the Baltimore region, crews have been dealing with hundreds of broken water pipes, including this one last week in Baltimore.

With an unusually cold holiday season and start to the new year, the county has had a larger than usual number of water main breaks, with about 500 households and businesses affected in one three-day span.

The county received calls for 18 ruptures between Jan. 5 and Jan. 8 when temperatures plunged into the single digits. To deal with the high volume of service calls, Bureau of Utilities Chief Arthur Shapiro said crews of between four and six workers worked on two rotating 12-hour shifts, with an average repair time of six hours.


“Working in that kind of environment’s tough,” Shapiro said.

Residents reported 41 water main breaks in December and 64 so far this month, with 23 breaks between Dec. 25 and Jan. 5 alone.


Those numbers are up from recent years. Between December 2016 and January 2017, there were 61 breaks and between December 2015 and January 2016 there were 46 breaks.

The county enlisted the help of Department of Public Works partners at the Bureau of Highways and the state’s environmental services agency on Jan. 7 for help with attending to the breaks, Shapiro said.

Now as temperatures warm up and water begins to flow more easily, Shapiro said residents often discover new leaks in pipes that they hadn’t noticed before.

Temperatures at the end of last week topped 60 degrees, before cooling back down to near freezing over the weekend.