Residents of Baltimore City and Baltimore, Arundel and Howard counties were ordered to conserve water while crews worked to repair a major water main that broke Thursday on Argonne Drive, just south of the Northwood Shopping Center in the city.

The main break also temporarily brought down the chlorinator at the Montebello water filtration plant, said Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works, which supplies water to both city and county residents. But he said Thursday night that the plant was fully operational and was being closely monitored.


"Anybody who gets a water bill from the city should conserve water," Kocher said. The surrounding counties also buy water from Baltimore, according to the spokesman.

Residents can drink the water but should not shower or use water to brush teeth in order to save water, according to Kocher.


The break, which occurred about 12:30 p.m. in a 42-inch main that connects with a 30-inch main in the 1600 block of Argonne Drive, caused a gas main to break several hours later, affecting approximately 80 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers, said Rob Gould, a spokesman for the utility.

The water main break closed Argonne Drive east of Loch Raven Boulevard. A shelter was set up at the Howard P. Rawlings dining hall at Morgan State University for anyone affected, Kocher said. BGE crews were going door to door to shut off gas lines at homes that were out of service, according to Gould.

"We are poised to begin repairs immediately, as fast as we can get in," Gould said. However, "there will be a significant lag time between the water being shut off and gas service being restored to customers."

Gould warned it might take several hours for workers to locate the gas main break and shut the gas off, and that it could take several days to remove water from the gas main, reintroduce gas and restore service to homes.

"We're dependent on the water being shut off to get in and do the work," he said.

Kocher said the broken main was at least 70 years old. He urged drivers to avoid the area because of workers doing repairs in the area.

Leonard Hall, 75, in front of whose home in the 1600 block of Argonne Drive the break occurred, said he heard a loud noise about 12:30 p.m. and looked out his front window. "There was a gusher of water about 10 feet high, and it was something I never saw in my whole life," said the retired worker for the city's solid waste department.

A neighbor, Louise Nelson, 66, a retired Johns Hopkins Hospital employee, said she and her son were about to drive away when they saw the break and called 311. "We made it to our car and drove off before the water could damage it," she said. When she and her son returned home about three hours later, they parked the car in the back of the house.


The break is the latest in a series of major water main problems in the area this year. City public works staff have repaired mains on Madison Street in Mount Vernon, on Lombard Street and Saratoga Street downtown, and on Monument Street in East Baltimore, as well as in Dundalk and Halethorpe.

Baltimore Sun reporter Richard Irwin contributed to this article.