Collapsing Infrastructure - the Power of Concentrated Stormwater Runoff in Streams


April 28, 2011: Highly Exposed Sewer Pipe was identified
by AWS, in the Takoma Tributary of Sligo Creek in
Prince George’s County, Maryland.


August 9, 2011: This pipe was fine or there was no change

until this time.


August 17, 2011: A portion of concrete was peeled off.


Between the years 2004 and 2006, I walked across the northern part of the Anacostia watershed for hundreds miles of stream network system to identify environmental problems in stream channels such as eroded banks, exposed sewer pipes, fish migration barriers, etc., using a survey protocol called Stream Corridor Assessment Survey developed by Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  AWS has found so many problems in the stream channels and some severe problems were reported to authorities demanding repairs.

Among them was a highly exposed sewer pipe in the Takoma Tributary of Sligo Creek, which was reported to WSSC to protect it from a possible rupture.  WSSC then responded to me that they reinforced the pipe from the inside by lining it with sturdy plastic and the exposed pipe was structurally strong enough to bear the stream force.

I was puzzled to hear that the pipe was structurally sound and honestly doubted their explanation.  However, I am not a structural engineer then I decided to observe it.

The exposed pipe was discovered by AWS on April 28, 2004.

It was fine or there was almost no change until August 9, 2011.

However, on August 17, 2011 before Hurricane Irene, AWS discovered structural damages to the armoring part of the exposed pipe.  A portion of concrete was peeled off (shown above) and a large gabion basket (a basket of metal chain link that encases cobble size stones) was washed away downstream (shown below).  Gabion basket was lined next to the exposed pipe to protect it.

I am nervous seeing this change.

Though one may want to blame WSSC, WSSC is actually a victim of inadequate stormwater management policy.  It is the concentrated stormwater runoff that rushes into the stream and erodes/scours the stream bank and bed exposing the infrastructure.  Though WSSC needs to protect its infrastructure, we have to reduce the volume, velocity, and the frequency of such high flow events by infiltrating stormwater into the ground.

April 28, 2004: Situation of the exposed pipe at a distance
when it was discovered.


August 17, 2011: AWS discovered that the gabion basket
was washed away downstream.  Now the sewer pipe is
more vulnerable to stream force and in danger of rupture.


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Collapsing Infrastructure - the Power of Concentrated

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