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D.C. councilman lashes out at water agency

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Photo - The Bloomingdale neighborhood in Northwest D.C. has experienced frequent flooding. (Examiner file photo)
The Bloomingdale neighborhood in Northwest D.C. has experienced frequent flooding. (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

A District councilman on Thursday slammed DC Water for an "inadequate" response to persistent flooding in the city's Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park neighborhoods, though the agency defended its performance and said it was urgently seeking answers.

"What I'm calling for, quite frankly, is for DC Water is to step up its efforts to address the situation," Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie told WPFW-FM. "Everything that has happened thus far has been inadequate for the residents of Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park."

Since July, the two neighborhoods have flooded four times, sending raw sewage and gallons of water into homes. City officials have blamed aging infrastructure for the episodes, but the permanent fix -- a 13-mile tunnel below the Anacostia River -- won't be completed until 2025.

Alan Heymann, a spokesman for DC Water, said the agency was scrambling to develop an immediate solution.

"It's unprecedented for this agency or any government agency of its size to have done the amount of work that it has on this issue in the past 60 days," Heymann said. "But we're aware that residents want solutions faster than 2025, and that's why we're still working."

Since July, Heymann said, DC Water has detailed 10 engineers to study the floods and evaluate techniques that might have emerged since the last comprehensive review of the neighborhoods' sewer systems, which took place in 2006.

Heymann also said that DC Water has used specialized cameras to survey the sewer system and that engineers have so far reviewed more than 30 percent of the area's pipes.

"We have found some debris. We have found some hairline cracks and that sort of thing," Heymann said. "Nothing that would indicate a problem on a neighborhood scale."

The problem, Heymann said, might not be physical defects in infrastructure, but instead too much rainfall for the system to handle.

"The nature of the rains is changing," Heymann said. "It's not of any comfort to anyone that it's just raining worse, but that is something we have to keep in mind as possibly being the new norm for climate in this area."

Earlier this week, McDuffie called on the city to establish a relief fund for residents whose homes were damaged by the floods.

"Ward 5 residents have borne the costs of multiple floods and deserve appropriate compensation for their losses," McDuffie said.

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray, said the administration was reviewing McDuffie's proposal.

Last month, Gray formed a task force to develop recommendations for the neighborhoods. The panel's findings are due in December.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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