0
Votes

Flooding Problem Adds to Snow Woes

As Alexandria prepares for yet another snowstorm this week, the cost of snow removal and flood clean-up is still not known.

After 16 inches of snow and more than two inches of rain in less than 24 hours at week ago, it was not surprising that many homes flooded.

Among those residents bailing water and sewage is Councilman William D. Euille who lives on Nelson Ave. in Del Ray.

"The carpet is probably ruined and there is other damage," Euille said. "When all is said and done, I would estimate that I will have about $5,000 to $6,000 in damage."

Damage throughout the Del Ray and Arlandria areas was the result of overloaded storm and sanitary sewers that were unable to handle the capacity.

Two of the hardest hit areas were the 3900 block of Bruce Street and buildings at 14 and 317 E. Mason St. In both cases families were provided temporary shelter at Cora Kelly Recreation Center which had been set up by the Alexandria Chapter of the American Red Cross.

According to Robert Luckett, chief deputy fire marshall, "Last Saturday evening we had a section of a garden style apartment complex with flooding. But, there were no living units affected. The damage was confined to the mechanical areas of the building.

"However, it did affect the heat and electrical. That is why the people were offered the opportunity to go to the shelter at Cora Kelly."

Julie Wright, executive director, Alexandria Red Cross, confirmed that they had "nine people on Saturday night and 19 on Sunday night. We expected that they would only stay a short time."

AT THE SHELTER, beds, food, and bathroom facilities, including showers, were made available to the evacuated families, according to the Red Cross. "The shelter will remain open as long as there is a need. It can accommodate up to 200 people," they verified.

In the case of the Mason Avenue properties, seven living units were impacted, according to Luckett. "We are working with them to make sure they have taken all the necessary sanitary precautions," he said. "There was a joint response from the fire and police departments, code enforcement, and the utility companies," Luckett explained.

He also noted the fire department was working with the building management to resolve the situation. "There was so much water flowing through the system on Saturday it was just backing up even though we were pumping as fast as possible," Luckett said. "In that part of the city the storm and sanitary sewers flow through the same pipe."

The Mason Avenue properties are part of the Arlandria Chililaga Housing Cooperative. It is a 22-building complex. Out of the 150 units in the two buildings with damage only eight were affected by the flooding, Luckett verified.

Since 1999, the city has been conducting street by street sewer inspections to evaluate the inflow and infiltration conditions of the sanitary system. This evaluation began in the Four Mile Run area where much of the weekend flooding occurred. There is a need to replace pipes, reline sewers and repair manholes as well as other mitigation efforts to reduce the flow of ground and surface water into the sanitary sewer system.

IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, the city has substantially increased funding for these types of repairs and replacement and in the current six-year capital improvement program, there is approximately $5 million for infiltration and inflow to begin to address the older sanitary sewers such as those in the Commonwealth Ave. area. Repair work will begin this calendar year. In this year's budget, citizens can look for substantial increases in funding in these efforts.

"I received an e-mail late on Tuesday that indicated the people who were out of their homes on Bruce Street should be back in them by tonight or tomorrow," said Mayor Kerry J. Donley. "We certainly hope that is the case."

On Saturday, Feb. 22, the city activated the Emergency Operation Center at the Lee Center to coordinate efforts to assist people with flood-related issues and those who were evacuated because of the gas leak at the Bradlee Shopping Center.

"Everything happened all at once," said Barbara Gordon, the city's public information officer. "The gas leak was dealt with fairly quickly but the residents on Bruce Street had to be placed in temporary shelter at Cora Kelly Recreation Center and the residents at the Hallmark Complex on Pickett Street voluntarily evacuated because there was no power in their complex."

The Department of Transportation and Environmental Services received 160 calls about flood-related emergencies while the Fire Department received five. Other departments throughout the city fielded calls but those were directed to T&ES or the Fire Department.

"We were fortunate that the river did not crest as expected," Gordon said.

THE COST OF THE SNOW removal is not yet known. "We will have a full report to Council when those efforts are completed," said Richard Baier the director of T&ES at Saturday's City Council hearing.

The city's snow removal efforts received kudos from many.

"As of Friday, we had received about 450 calls complaining about snow removal," said City Manager Philip G. Sunderland. "Compared to our last big snow, that's very good."

Another storm is expected to hit the city on Thursday, Feb. 27. "We can handle six inches or so," Donley said. "It's the 18 inches that is a problem."