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Mayor’s Task Force on Bloomingdale Flooding Announces Short-Term Relief Measures

by Prince Of Petworth — September 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm 24 Comments

1st and Rhode Island Ave, NW taken by @BoundaryStoneDC

From a Press Release:

Mayor Vincent C. Gray today announced three short-term measures to lessen the impacts of flooding in the Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park neighborhoods. DC Water, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) will implement these solutions as part of their work on the Mayor’s Task Force on the Relief of Flooding in Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park.

The two neighborhoods have suffered from overland flooding and sewer backups on multiple occasions this summer because of heavy rains and outdated sewer infrastructure. In response, Mayor Gray formed the task force to identify short- and long-range solutions to the flooding problem. The Mayor named City Administrator Allen Y. Lew and DC Water General Manager George Hawkins as co-chairs of the task force.

The short-term measures include:

· Analyzing the effectiveness of, and installing additional, storm drains in affected areas;

· Installing stormwater-retention features in the affected area to lessen runoff due to heavy rains; and

· Assisting residents in the neighborhood with installation of rain barrels to collect runoff from rooftops during storms, thereby decreasing the stormwater loads that the sewer system must handle.

“DC Water has been busy analyzing the causes of the problem, working with affected homeowners and doing long-term planning,” said Mayor Gray. “These three mitigation efforts represent the first tangible results from the Task Force, which brings DC Water together with other agencies and neighborhood residents. This is a good first step toward some much-needed relief.”

The stretches of road most susceptible to flooding have been the 500 and 600 blocks of Florida Avenue NW and the 100 block of Rhode Island Avenue NW.

“The District is coordinating all appropriate agencies to address this issue as quickly as possible,” said Lew. “The immediate goal is to intervene and redirect some of the overland water flow that caused the flash flooding and prevent it from threatening the homes in these neighborhoods.”

Continues after the jump

Storm Drains

With funding from DC Water, DDOT will analyze the number and effectiveness of storm drains in the 500 and 600 blocks of Florida Avenue NW. DDOT will then construct additional storm drains as needed, tying them into a part of the District’s sewer system that does not get overwhelmed during rainstorms. The analysis for this work will begin immediately, with any design and construction to begin within 45 days.

Stormwater Retention

With funding from DC Water, DDOT will design and install porous pavers, tree boxes and other water-capturing features in the sidewalk along the 100 block of Rhode Island Avenue NW. This project will retain stormwater and mitigate the effects of flooding in the street. The analysis for this work will begin immediately, with construction to begin within 45 days.

Rain Barrels

DC Water will provide a one-time grant of $250,000 to DDOE for an expansion of the RiverSmart Homes program specific to neighborhoods along the Northeast Boundary Trunk Sewer. The goal will be for thousands of individual households to disconnect their downspouts and install rain barrels, reducing the stormwater that runs off into the combined sewer. Rain barrels and downspout diversion will also help keep flooding away from homes with installed backflow preventers. DDOE will begin taking applications for rain barrels installed through this program October 1st.

“We are pleased to join the other agencies in the Task Force in developing these short-term solutions,” said DC Water’s Hawkins. “The long-term solution is well documented, but it won’t be here fast enough. Our next step is to summarize and present the work of our 10-person engineering term on medium-term solutions that would capture stormwater before it gets to Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park, or take it away faster. We hope to do this in the next several weeks.”

  • Anonymous

    Let’s see. an average rowhouse in this area is roughly 20 feet wide and 40 feet deep, so that’s 800 square feet of roof space. 2.5 inches of rain fell in an hour during the last flood. So, we’re talking 800 x 2.5 / 12 = 166 cubic feet of rain, which is 1,250 gallons of water. A typical rain barrel is 50 gallons. So, if installed on every home in the area, this brilliant plan would have reduced 4% of the flooding. What a great idea!

    • Anonymous

      That’s 4% of the water that hits a house, not 4% of the flooding. Presumably, a large portion that hits the houses and the streets actually moves through the system rather than backing up, so this may actually have an impact.

      In any case, these are temporary measures. The long-term fix will likely involve digging up the streets and spending truckloads of money. Do you have any better suggestions in the short term?

      • Anonymous

        water tankers to remove the waste water.

        • anon

          Water tankers? Like pumping water into trucks, driving them somewhere else to dump the water, and driving back to refill until the storm is over?! Redo your calculations above and let us know how many trucks that would take and how fast they would have to be moving to make even a dent.

          It’s simply that the system is not scaled for these events and is a natural chokepoint. There is no subterfuge here. If you want to take DCWater to task for something here then ask why they started the pipe videos up on Bryant instead of south of RI Ave where the actually source of the backup likely is (newsflash: water still flows downhill!). By their own statements they are only 1/3 of the way through the video survey for blockages, and I would have started that where blockages would most likely be found downstream. I would bet money that they find and clear *some* blockages, but that in the worst rain events these areas will still be flood prone.

          Rain barrels and permiable surfaces will keep some water out of the system, and every little bit helps. I would also like to see a concerted PR campaign to get people to stop throwing their f*&%ing trash in the street. That would do more than anything else.

          • Anonymous

            You do realize that these video cameras aren’t like salmon and actually swim better going downstream rather than upstream, right?

  • Rain barrels!

    Is this from the Onion?

    • Ronald

      Yeah – they actually work pretty well. We had some foundation seepage problems behind our house during heavy rains for years, then put in a rain barrel under our back downspout and it cough enough of the water to make a difference. Bonus: we’ve never had to use tap water to water our garden since.

  • Jake

    this is actually a good start. I don’t think the rain barrels and stormwater mitigation efforts will have much of an effect, but can’t hurt. If the problem is being caused by inadequate storm drain capacity, adding more and bigger storm drains might solve the problem.

    • Anonymous

      See, I would think that when I see a manhole cover in the street blown off, the water has no issue getting from the street into the sewer line. If by “new storm drains” they mean additional drain lines below the street, then I agree. If they mean new inlets to the existing drain lines, seems like a waste of money to me.

  • TheBloomster

    This is actually a better start than I imagined. The goal is not to get rid of all the water immediately; it’s to slow it enough or reduce the volume enough that it can move through the system without backing up. The combination of these things proposed could have an impact. The replacement of sidewalks with pavers and the addition of treeboxes is a very good idea. In fact, I’d like to see the city speed up the refurbishing of Bloomingdale’s many alleys by replacing the cement with porous pavers and putting in some trees where possible. Imagine if some of the water sank into the ground beneath all the alleys rather than rushing over all of them. A pretty large volume of water could be removed from the system.

  • bloomingdale neighbor

    Rain Barells certainly can’t hurt but they are no solution as Anonymous notes. Hopefull this is only a first step. The only solution is MASSIVE water retention – i.e. divert the water to McMillan (don’t know of any other viable site unless buried underground which would be expensive). Pervious pavers are great on a massive scale in areas “upstream” of the actual flooding – not the site of it. The Bloomster’s suggesting of pervious pavers in Alleys is a much better suggestion – could take away a large surface area that currently runs to the street and is not near home foundations.

    Hopefully this is only a first step with much bigger, and real solutions to come

    • Anonymous

      turn the old sand flitration site into an accesible lake?

    • bb

      I was running by McMillian yesterday, and also thought that it should be used as a temporary solution. It’s just up the street (literally) from where the flooding occurs, and was designed to hold water. Creating some infrastructure that could pump excess water the short distance up to McMillan seems to make sense. Although I’m sure DC Water or an armchair water expert will correct me there.

    • Anonymous

      The Permeable pavers look neat if its anything like this video.

  • Lorenzo H

    When the hell did this much flooding occur in the city?

    • anony

      2001, and before that, and before that, and before that, etc.

      Poll the long time residents of the 100 block of RI Ave, they have stories to tell

      • Anonymous

        not this many times in such a short time span. that has not happened here before.

        • anon

          As a long time resident of Rhode Island and 1st, we’ve suffered from this kind of flooding for atleast 15 years.

          This only happens during severe rain events, which have happened 3 or 4 times this summer, which is setting a record. 2 or 3 inches of rain an hour isn’t usual by any definition of the term. It may be becoming the “new normal” but it hasn’t been as long as I’ve lived here. I also haven’t had a problem since I spent $120 dollars on backflow preventers I bought at Home Depot for my yard and basement drains. Last year during the hurricane water started to back up into my first floor tub, but didn’t get very far. Why the city doesn’t go around and put backflow preventers in the drains is beyond me. I am far from being Bob Villa and it took me about 10 minutes per drain.

          Having said that, I really have a hard time understanding what takes so long diagnosing the problem. The drain lines are either damaged/clogged/full of trash, all of which can be remedied with a large sewer vacuum.


          The system is fine and just undersized for today’s weather and population in which case it needs to be bolstered by additional drainage lines, ostensibly could be installed adjacent to the existing.

          Again, this isn’t rocket science. Either the path for the water is clogged, or isn’t big enough. Both problems have relatively easy solutions.

      • Anonymous

        I noticed that the rowhouses between 2nd and 3rd on RIA are all elevated a good ten feet above street level with at least a dozen stairs to get to them. I’m guessing flooding is why. So, not a new problem.

        • Anon202

          The flooding is definitely not a new problem. The level of the houses you mention could possibly be related to it, but it’s more likely a result of regrading and widening of Rhode Island Ave at some point after the houses were built. Many of the city’s major streets were regraded when they were modernized and paved, which resulted in the kind of level difference you noted, which can still be seen in many parts of the city.

          • Anonymous

            are you actually familiar with those houses? they definitely weren’t regraded; the basement window and door configuration (actually, more properly the first floor) is totally different than other row houses in the city, with much taller windows etc.

          • Anonymous

            he’s referring to the street itself, not the property or the houses.

  • anon

    Hahaha…rain barrels?

    In that photo alone, there is somewhere in the range of 3-4 million gallons in the street.

    You could give every single family home in the District a 50 gallon rain barrel and it wouldn’t be enough to contain the water in that photo.

    Hey DC Water, get with the program. Put a camera down the 3 main sanitary sewer main lines that drain the area, find the constriction and deal with it there.


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