July 12, 2012

Video: Bloomingdalers upset about recurring flooding

Channel 4 has a short segment on Tuesday night’s flooding in Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park. The Post also has a story describing the sewage-drenched nightmare that struck many residents’ basements.

DC Water, which is responsible for the water pipes and sewers, left the following note in the comments section of yesterday’s post on the flooding:


We’ve received a number of phone calls, tweets and email inquiries from Bloomingdale, LeDroit and Eckington customers who faced flooding last night. We’re so sorry to hear this has happened, and want to provide some background information as well as next steps.

The sewer system under this part of the District was installed generations ago by the federal government. At the time, populations were smaller, rains were likely lighter, and people weren’t commonly living in basements. The system was not designed to handle the volume it handles today. We inherited this system and are working to upgrade it, but this is not a fast, simple or inexpensive process.

We do clean every catch basin in the District once a year, and we come through flood-prone areas to do more cleaning every time a big storm is predicted. This one was not part of any weather forecast. The volume of rain in such a short period would overwhelm many catch basins as well.

The best short-term solution is a backflow preventer, which a licensed plumber can install. The long-term solution is enlarging the capacity of the sewer system, which will come as part of our Clean Rivers Project. It is a 20-year, $2.6 billion effort to build 13 miles of tunnels, which will capture stormwater and sewage and send them to our Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. The tunnel will start at Blue Plains and is under construction now. The last segment will make its way from RFK Stadium to Gallaudet University and will relieve the historic flooding problems in Bloomingdale, Eckington and Edgewood.

More details are here: http://www.dcwater.com/workzones/projects/anacostia_river_information_sheet.cfm. Customers with questions can feel free to email us at twitter@dcwater.com or call (202) 612-3400 anytime.

DC Water
Office of External Affairs

There are two things to glean from the comments section in yesterday’s post. One is that a number of Bloomingdale residents have said that flooding occurs in their basements more than once a year. Another is that DC Water’s solution, which includes the construction of an interceptor sewer tunnel, is years away.

DC Water will address residents on Monday, July 16 at 7 pm at St. George’s Episcopal Church at 2nd and U Streets NW.

Categories: Environment, Safety & Order
Tags: , , , , ,

8 Replies

  1. Here’s a link to the story that I contributed to for the Washington Post to help get our stories heard and recognized by the city….it’s a small step….unfortunately a lot of the details of the larger situation where left out becuase they were looking for more of a personal story…but it’s still good for coverage of our problem.

    Jared Moffett - July 12, 2012 @ 9:50 am
  2. Additional, there was a water main break on Florida Avenue and 6th street this morning….we will be without water now to clean up the city’s sewer mess that was left in our basements.
    The alert was forwarded from DC Alert for the LeDroit Park area.

    Jared Moffett - July 12, 2012 @ 9:51 am
  3. Before I comment, I want to say that I lived in an english basement on the unit block of Adams St NW for 2 years. That said…

    What DC Water says is true. Density and volume at the time the combined sewer system in the area was constructed was likely much smaller than it is now. Plus over the decades since, I am sure the system has been degraded by age, wear, tree roots, etc. I find it frustrating that people don’t understand that the charm of a 70, 80, 100 year old house comes with similarly old utilities which may not be up to modern standards. It does suck when this happens, but you can’t instantly fix this stuff. And people would complain just as much if the streets and alleys were torn up to place new lines. the suggestion of a backflow preventer is a good one. They cost a few hundred dollars (http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/MILWAUKEE-VALVE-Swing-Check-Valve-1JLZ6?Pid=search) plus installation, which should total $1200 or so at most assuming they have access to install it. If they have to get below the basement slab, that will go up sharply. These basically make it so that the flow only goes one way (also known as a check valve) so that sewage only goes out. Its a cheap insuance policy.

    When I lived on Adams, I only had issues once with flooding, and that was becase the drain outside my front door had clogged with leaves and water got into the entrance way. granted Adams is on high ground relative to the rest of the neighborhood. Perhaps my house had a check valve.

    I don’t mean to minimize the suffering, but to point out that this is not just the city’s problem. As a homeowner you bear responsibility for your property. I know not everyone is a construction professional like me. Its an unfortunate situation, but after repeted flooding, you should learn its not isolated and do what you need to do to protect your investment.

    I have done work with WE Bowers, Magnolia and WL Gary and would trust them to do it in my home. They may not be the cheapest, but I would trust them. I work for a general contractor and offer my opinion only and am not getting anything from this.

    Good Luck!

    P.S. – the water mains in most cases are just as old… well, really they are a patchwork of repairs from a century of breaks. Some of them may still be terra cotta – we all know lead is in the system. The term ‘fire plug’ comes from the days in older American cities where water mains were made from hollowed out tree trunks and fire depratments simply drilled into them to gain access to water. They then hammered in a large wooden plug to fill the hole. These later became fire hydrants. History! We have come a long way folks, but some of you are dealing with the legacy of this early ingenuity.

    dano - July 12, 2012 @ 3:18 pm
  4. @ Dano – I understand that a long term fix for the whole system is needed but to completely ignore an immediate problem in a localized area for many years is not acceptable. Installing a backflow preventer costs a lot more than $1200 after they dig up your entire yard and retaining wall to locate and will only make the problem worse for your neighbors. Additionally, all the water from your roof which flows into the back drain will not be able to escape and will flood the house from the rear.

    We pay taxes and utilities and should expect competence and attention to this problem – it’s not like it’s brand new or out of the blue. “Charm” does not include repeatedly having your property destroyed by negligence and defeatism. Not only is the system outdated but the catch basins are completely clogged with trash and not routinely cleaned out despite many formal requests for them to do so with no response.

    Hoping DCWASA offers up some proactive solutions at Monday’s meeting. Otherwise we should consider a class action lawsuit to force their hand. Any attorney’s in the neighborhood who would like to take up the cause?

    Flooded Neighbor - July 13, 2012 @ 6:36 pm
  5. So yes, it happened a 2nd time flooding in the area….while not quite as bad in my place, flooding no matter what is bad.

    I attended the civic meeting the other night in Bloomingdale and to be honest we did not get very far with DC Water who seemed rather unprepared for certain segements of the meeting beyond telling about the 20 year plan and the ridiculous suggestions of back flow preventers which cost 1,000s to install and prevent rain water from leaving drains.

    Here’s are some video coverages
    From 07/16/2012:


    From 07/18/2012:


    Jared Moffett - July 19, 2012 @ 7:16 pm
  6. I can’t help but think the necessary renovations that needed to be made to the current system have been delayed due to the socio-economic environment of Bloomingdale in the past 20 years. No offense, but DC seems to be on it when it comes to Georgetown or Dupont, not so much around the North Capitol area. No coincidence there. Now that Bloomingdale is the new hotspot, its residents (I am one, before anyone starts screaming bloody murder) expect the same immediate treatment that Georgetown gets. Keep waiting. Flooding sucks and it’s a total b*tch to deal with, but I’m with Dano… Rhode Island and First used to be a CREEK. Research as to where you live and the implications it may post is a responsible approach to homeownership.

    Veronika - July 20, 2012 @ 12:23 pm
  7. The first storm I recall was in 2001. It happened in the afternoon and it flooded like crazy. We came home to a foot of water in our basement. Everything we had on the ground was ruined. Long-time neighbors couldn’t recall when the last flooding had occurred but it had been a while. That was 11 years ago. Every year or two after that we have been hit with flooding. Many getting it in from the drains while others, like me, getting it in from the drain by my back door in the basement. I have a makeshift flood gate set up with sandbags and an interior wedge to keep the water out, hopefully!

    The argument of the city ignoring socio-economically poor Bloomingdale prior to 2001 doesn’t stand. There was not a recurring problem then, so there was little to fix, if anything. Georgetown draws millions in tax revenue as does Dupont. We have a handful of business in the flooded areas. I wish that argument would die soon.

    I think that something must have happened to the system from 2000 to the present. I think it has something to do with the reservoir upstream. I am not sure who to contact and what to ask for to see if the Army Corps of Engineers is dumping water into the sewers to protect the reservoir.

    Finally, homeowners should do whatever it takes to protect their home. Back-flow valves, flood gates, whatever. The city needs to remove any permitting roadblocks, if any exist, to allow DC Water to move quickly. DC Water, needs to hire more workers to get this 20 year project cut down to 15 or less. Perhaps adding more cisterns that delay the release of water to the sewers. The city also needs to encourage residents and business to add more green areas to absorb the rain. Every new building built should be mandated to have cisterns and a green roof. New residences should have pervious surfaces to allow water absorption. The city should also reconsider allowing basement dwellings to be created until the problem is solved.

    DCDude - July 20, 2012 @ 2:30 pm
  8. Veronika,
    A Georgetown hotel had to shut down for 6 months for sewer flooding problems. Its bad everywhere.

    keith - July 31, 2012 @ 11:21 am

Leave a comment