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Five-foot-wide storm sewer line Going into the 100 block of Rhode Island Ave NW to help Mitigate Flooding in Bloomingdale

by Prince Of Petworth — May 17, 2013 at 11:45 am 14 Comments


From a press release:

Mayor Vincent C. Gray joined officials from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and DC Water today to mark a major step in an ongoing flood-mitigation project in the Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park neighborhoods, and to urge residents to take preventative steps to protect their property in advance of summer storms that may cause flooding.

“Today is another step forward for the Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park neighborhoods, which historically have suffered through significant flooding during large storms,” Mayor Gray said. “We have already implemented several immediate efforts to mitigate the flooding, and are implementing longer-term solutions to ensure that these neighborhoods do not continue experiencing repeated street flooding and property damage due to heavy rainstorms.”

Next week DDOT will begin a construction project to install a five-foot-wide storm sewer line in the median of the 100 block of Rhode Island Avenue NW. This project, which will last three months, will help remove stormwater from the roadway and store it before slowly releasing it into the sewer system.

“When it rains, community members in Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park have historically had to worry about flooding,” said DDOT Director Terry Bellamy. “Today we’re taking a major step forward in addressing this problem.”

Throughout the last century, the historic Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park neighborhoods have experienced occasional street flooding and sewer backups during intense rain storms. Last year, however, four major thunderstorms caused repeated flooding and prompted officials to take a closer look at what District agencies and property owners could do to protect property. Mayor Gray appointed a task force last August to study the problem and recommend solutions.

“Last summer we had more intense rainstorms with flooding than in the previous 10 years combined,” noted DC Water General Manager George S. Hawkins. “We began investigating right away and joined the city task force to investigate creative solutions. This year we want to be sure everyone is aware of both what we are doing and what property owners can do to minimize flooding during heavy rains.”

City Administrator and DC Water Board Chair Allen Y. Lew added, “The ultimate engineering fix is coming in 2022 with the massive Clean Rivers Project, but in the meantime we identified a number of actions that can help these neighborhoods.”

The Mayor’s Task Force on the Prevention of Flooding in Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park issued a final report earlier this year. It found that these neighborhoods, which were developed at the turn of the 20th century when sewage conveyance was a relatively new concept and the population was less dense, were suffering from a sewer system that was simply too small to accommodate today’s needs. The report included 25 recommendations to mitigate flooding, including short-, medium- and long-term solutions in the following categories: engineering, regulatory, code revision and operation and maintenance components.

Short-Term Solutions

Continues after the jump.

DDOT has already installed catch basins (i.e., storm drains) on the 500 to 600 blocks of Florida Avenue NW and the unit block of T Street NW to help divert water from area roadways and alleviate flooding. In addition to the five-foot-wide storm sewer, DDOT will make the following infrastructure improvements in the near future:

Install a new sewer line and double catch basin at the intersection of 2nd Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW to add capacity to the sewer system;
Install permeable pavement near 1st Street NW to reduce runoff; and
Plant a bioretention cell (i.e., rain garden) in the green space at the intersection of T Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW. An inlet will be placed in the rain garden to capture runoff from large storm events and carefully release it into the sewer system.

DC Water continues to offer home engineering consultations for flood-proofing and backup prevention as well as a rebate program for backwater valves — plumbing devices to prevent sewage from backing up into basements. The rebate covers 90 percent of the cost of the device and installation up to $3,000. The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) offers free rain barrels to property owners. In addition, DDOT is investing in a local green infrastructure program to absorb rainwater before it gets into the stormwater and sewer systems.

Medium-Term Solutions

DDOT will invest $10 million over the next five years in green infrastructure stormwater solutions in this area and areas immediately upstream. Some of these improvements include installing permeable paving and rain gardens to capture and redirect stormwater.

DC Water is implementing two significant engineering projects in the medium term. The first transforms two cells of the abandoned sand-filtration facilities at McMillan Reservoir to capture 6 million gallons of stormwater before it can enter the combined sewer system. The sand is being removed now and the cells will be converted to storage tanks to hold the stormwater during intense rains. This will be operational in 2014.

The second installation will serve a similar purpose, storing an additional six million gallons of stormwater. This is a 19’-diameter tunnel to be built under First Street NW, running from Rhode Island and First Street to the southwest corner of the McMillan site. When construction is complete in 2016, this tunnel (called the First Street Tunnel) will hold stormwater during intense rainstorms, after which a temporary pumping station will deliver the stormwater into the sewer system to be treated at DC Water’s Blue Plains facility.

Long-Term Solutions

DC Water began construction on the massive $2.6 billion Clean Rivers Project in 2011 to build large storage tunnels from Blue Plains all the way up to the Northeast Boundary district. The utility is changing the alignment of the system to provide better drainage for the affected area. DC Water has also accelerated project plans to reach the Bloomingdale/LeDroit area sooner than originally scheduled, so that in 2022 the tunnel system to the south will meet up and tie into the First Street Tunnel. At that time the temporary pumping station can be removed, as drainage will be achieved through gravity.

What Can Bloomingdale/LeDroit Residents Do Now to Mitigate Storm Flooding?

If they haven’t already, they should:

Install a backwater valve to keep sewage from backing up into their homes or businesses;
Take steps to prevent overland flooding from entering dwellings. DC Water offers free engineering consultations;
Contact their insurance about a rider covering sewer back-ups;
Request a rain barrel from DDOE; and
Continue to use sandbags as needed during storms.

  • Anon X

    The flooding has caused an uproar and the proposed solution has caused an uproar among the same people.

    They dont want their basements filled with sewage and feel that they are entitled to the city fixing this immediately. However, when the city begins to fix it by digging a huge tunnel they all get wound up because “well we werent asked if this is how it should be done, its been rushed through” oh and they dont want to be inconvenienced by the construction…

    • houseintherear

      Not the same people. A few blocks makes a huge difference in this situation.

  • eastof9

    That first comment above must be from DC Water.

  • Mark

    In my neighborhood there are storm drains all along Holmead, and half of them are clogged. It is starting to irritate me.

  • Anonymous

    Hate to be Captain Obvious, but the only people who care about the Flagler/First St being closed are the folks who live there. Sure – it sucks – but it’s something you’re just going to have to deal with.

  • BDale Res

    The issue at hand is DCWater’s poor public relations with those affected by the matter at hand. Closing off a street for up to 3 years is concerning from many different perspectives, including the many homes that do not have alley access. Safety is a major issue. DCWater has yet to address concerns about access for EMS, Fire, Police, etc… Bloomingdale has had a handful of house fires in the past year, including a fatally from a fire. There are many elderly and disables residents in the area that are reliant on numerous services, in which their safety is compromised by DC Water’s rushed plans. Also the fact that the work to be performed is unprecedented in a densely populated community. Creating a 20+ foot wide, 100 foot deep crater in the ground of a street that is 24 feet wide is unreasonable. Homes will be with 100 feet of this monster hole in the ground. DCWater has failed to address alternatives to the matter and implementing a plan that was devised in less than 100 days only spells poor planning/management. Feel free to tell some of our 90 year old residents who have invested in this community for years that they are going to have to suck it up. Last year was a fluke with the rain storms. Rushing to put a bandaid over the problem and spend millions upon millions of dollars is irresponsible.

    • Bdale res

      Correction – numerous homes are within 10 feet of the 100 foot deep hole in the ground.

  • anony

    As somebody who lives in the neighborhood but is not directly affected by the flooding or the work being done by DCWater to mitigate it I can appreciate both sides. There needs to be *something* done now before the massive Anacostia storage tunnel is complete (the actual ultimate solution which is still going to happen), what I don’t get is why it is a $150 million massive undertaking when other temporary fixes are also being pursued. We are basically being asked to support a complete fix before the “real” complete fix is done. That’s about $15 million PER YEAR from project completion to the Big Tunnel scheduled to open in 2025. That could fund a whole lot of backflow preventers for residents …

    I haven’t heard any analysis about the progress made last summer. After the floods DCWater was in the neighborhood clearing out every catch basin and digging up pavement to reach choke points that weren’t readily accessible. And now we have two lanes of RI Ave NW being closed for a couple months to put in another massive catch basin. Is it possible that these fixes in themselves would prevent flooding? How much debris was removed? Is the throughput capacity of the system a lot better than it was last summer? Who knows, but I’d like to see the analysis: where were we 10 months ago, where are we now. Maybe the city could save $150 million by asking those questions and doing more preventive maintenance. Of course if the answer is “Yes” and there is still flooding, heads would roll. The current plan seems like complete overkill, though.

    I’m sure the contractor was happy to “persuade” the city that is was necessary to get that nice, fat contract.

  • eastof9

    I don’t think most people in Bloomingdale realize this yet, but in about one year everyone will be affected by the First Street Tunnel construction. There will be 4 major construction sites, serviced by up to 230 trucks per day, continuously for 2-3 years. Construction starts later this year/early next year.

  • Elizabeth

    The rebate program is a scam. No one who has done the work is getting paid. I live one block from 100 block of RIA and they claimed my block was not affected and refused to even process the application. There is no transparency in the process and councilman McDuffie has not been able to get DC Water to do anything, nor is the community affairs office at DC Water whom I contacted repeatedly. I have been told that my situation is not unique, that DC Water is sitting on the funds provided to relieve the expense of backflow preventer installation. Don’t believe the hype; DC Water is doing as little as possible for Bloomingdales, they are doing it as slowly as possible, and at the greatest possible expense and inconvenience to the community of Bloomingdale.

    • Bloomingdale Rez

      Sorry that you have had a problem, but a BFP is almost essential in the neighborhood for peace of mind. My neighbor and I have had BFPs installed and received our rebates – the program does exist. There was an eligibility map but it is not online.

  • Anonymous

    They cut down the trees in the median of Rhode Island Avenue between 1st and 2nd!! Travesty!

  • moving to RIA

    Question to residents – thank you in advance. I am considering purchasing a 1st level condo on the Rhode Island Ave between N. Capital and 1st St NW. Can anyone tell me if this block of RIA has been affected by the recent flooding and sewage backup? Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      That condo is technically in the “basement”, and yes, that stretch of RIA was indeed directly affected by flooding. There’s a good reason why that property has remained on the market for so long given the current market conditions.


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