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Bloomingdale Residents Tire of Water and Sewage Issues

Barrington M. Salmon | 9/7/2012, 1 a.m.

He and DeBernardo said backflow preventers had been installed in drains outside in the front and back of the condo complex but that has not solved the problem. In fact, Hood said, in some cases the problem has been exacerbated because the water cannot be dispersed.

He said he feels helpless in the face of this problem.

"I don't even know where to go with this," he said, shaking his head. "I remember sitting with the developer and I thought 'I'm halfway underground. Flooding could be an issue.' [He] assured me that there had been no flooding here, but within two months, we had [the first water and sewage issues]."

"I might believe [the developer] but I'm not sure. I know that the developer must have known. These two [basement] units will continue having problems."

In response to the problem, DC Water employees cleaned storm sewers and drains, which served as merely a stop-gap measure.

The National Weather Service predicted one-to-two inches over the subsequent 24 hours, with the remnants of Hurricane Isaac bringing heavy rains before tapering off Wednesday afternoon.

Ward 5 Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie dispatched a team from his office to assist beleaguered residents at about 2 a.m. Monday morning. They spent a good part of the day onsite. He echoed the frustration festering in the community.

"Residents in Bloomingdale need relief now. Something's got to happen," he said during an interview on Monday, September 3. "I suggest an emergency relief fund. Residents are frustrated, devastated and angry. They need relief now."

The flooding occurred almost a week after a taskforce formed to provide solutions to the problem met for the first time. But despite his role in the creation of the body, McDuffie said the taskforce is focused on long-term solutions that do nothing to address the problem in the present. As an example, he said, recommendations from that initial meeting aren't due until December.

McDuffie, DC Water officials and some residents point to a combined sewer system which is outdated, overwhelmed and over capacity. What makes residents' blood boil is the discomforting response by DC Water officials who ask for patience. Their solution: The Clean Rivers Project, set to be completed more than 10 years from now.

"The developer is pointing fingers at the city which says wait until 2025," said an incredulous DeBernardo. "I think of all the kickbacks city officials get and they abdicate their responsibility [to correct this problem]. The developer should have foreseen this and the city shouldn't be allowing construction without taking the [sewage system] into consideration. Yet there are more buildings being constructed on U Street, 6th and 9th Streets and proposals for more building on land by the McMillan Reservoir."

Sunday's storms produced the fourth overflow of sewage to hit the neighborhood, including a harrowing period of three storms over 10 days this summer. Several residents spoke of manhole covers being shot into the air by sewage-laden water and geysers of foul water overwhelming basements, bedrooms, utility areas, floors and living areas of LeDroit Place, apartments and homes. On the streets, the flash flooding produced water so deep that cars stalled out, leaving drivers who ventured into large pools of standing water stranded.

Elsewhere, standing water on the tracks at the Shaw-Howard University Metro Station led officials to close that station and three others as a precaution Sunday evening, said Metro Spokesperson Caroline L. Lukas.

"We were made aware of the problem at about 8 p.m.," she said. "We closed the stations to maintain service and minimize the impact."

Metro offered shuttle buses to passengers between the Mt. Vernon Square and Georgia Avenue stations. Regular service was restored Monday morning.

On Monday afternoon, on streets leading to the Bloomingdale neighborhood such as Rhode Island Avenue, large mobile traffic signs cautioned motorists not to park in certain low-lying areas or attempt to drive through any pools of water following a downpour.

Residents like Hood, meanwhile, grow increasingly weary with a certain knowledge that more problems with water and sewage are in their future.

"It's terrible. We're just sitting around waiting for it to happen," Hood said.