Washington, DC

“Dear PoPville,

I’m hoping there are some plumbers or engineers out there, or people who have dealt with this before, who can share their wisdom.

We live in a Petworth rowhouse, and we have a drain in our back yard. It’s fairly close to the back of the house, and the downspout from the roof appears to go into it. I always assumed that it was some kind of french drain – a french drain with problems, since there is always standing water in it. It is naturally a source of mosquitoes. We constantly throw dunks down it, spray it with cutter, etc. Our neighbors all have these drains, though, so it doesn’t make much difference.

Last week, some guys came to clean some debris out of the drain next door. My husband was chatting with them and found out that in fact it is not a french drain. The yard drain connects directly with the main sewage line in the house – the standing water is there to sort of seal off the opening and prevent nastiness from escaping. Knowing this, we want to plug the damn thing and get a rain barrel.

Two questions for the PoP community: if we just throw some gravel down there, and then top it off with cement, is that okay? I don’t want to do serious damage to something in the house. And two: is there any way to get a count of the number of these drains still in existence, as a first step to getting them abated? I think that would virtually eliminate the mosquito problem in many parts of the city. Anyone have any experience with that kind of thing?”


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