11 July 2013

The West Virginia Avenue Wetland is gone - or is it?

For years, there has been a leak of some sort coming up through the sidewalk on West Virginia Avenue NE, just north of the intersection with Fenwick Street, in front of property used by the DC Department of Public Works.

This is what it looked like for a long time:

The "West Virginia Avenue Wetland"
Water constantly flowed down the sidewalk. The water had been sitting for so long that cattails and other aquatic plants had colonized the walkway. As you can see in the photo above, the city's solution was to throw a few cones in the pond and call it a day.

I complained about this regularly on Twitter, mostly to DC Water, assuming this was their problem. They tested the water, though, and asserted that it was not coming from one of their pipes.

I figured this wasn't possible. The water had to be coming from a municipally-owned source, and DC Water controls all of that in the city. But, they're the experts!

The morning I took the photo above, I included the mayor's Twitter handle in my semi-regular complaint. Surprisingly, I received a direct message shortly after letting me know that the executive's office would be getting to the bottom of this issue quickly. I guess you just have to get your timing right, sometimes!

After a few days, crews were there digging up the area around the leak. Jaime asked the workers if they had found anything, but they treated it like a state secret and wouldn't talk.

Construction crews dig to find the source of the leak.
Finally, a few days later, this email arrived from Matt Desjardins, who works in the mayor's office:

Hello – Mayor Gray asked me to follow up with you regarding some standing water on the sidewalk near a DPW facility in NE. I know that this has been an issue you have been looking to resolve for some time now and I apologize if any of the below information is redundant. 
Here is what we currently know. DPW is working with its partner agencies to address the issue: 
· DPW has hired a contractor to address the flooding of the sidewalk at 1725 West Virginia Avenue, NE (Fleet campus). The contractor uncovered an abandoned storm water drain that originates at a manhole and dead ends into multi chambered structure under the sidewalk. When it rains, all of the runoff water backs up in the manhole and bubbles up onto the sidewalk and street on West Virginia Avenue, NE. There is no access for the runoff into the sewer system. 
· The current DC Water regulations require that there be either an oil/water separator or a storm water management system on the property. Neither system is in place for this section of the campus. 
· One possible solution is to have DC Water build a storm water management system as it builds the new parking lot. DC Water needs to use the Fleet campus to construct a 110 foot shaft to address the Bloomingdale flooding issue. DC Water will construct a new parking lot for DPW to replace the parking lot where the shaft will be used for the tunnel. 
· Unfortunately, a solution may be a few months away.
The upshot is this: there's a drainage system under the sidewalk that apparently does not connect to the regular storm sewer system. It could get "fixed" when DC Water works on the tunnel that will ultimately divert storm water from Bloomingdale.

Isn't infrastructure fun?

After construction to cap the abandoned storm drain.

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