Another chapter in the Riverside Manor water line saga has been added: A lawsuit against Fairfax Water by a resident of Great Falls to stop the installation of the water line was dismissed on Thursday.
“The judge did not grant the motion to give a temporary injunction,” which would have stopped Fairfax Water’s contractor, Casper Colosimo and Son, from further installing the waterline, said Jeanne Bailey, a spokeswoman for Fairfax Water.
THE CASE was dismissed by Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Marcus Williams because Richard Weidman, who spoke on his own behalf in court on Thursday, “did not put forth enough evidence” to convince the judge that the project should be stopped, Bailey said. Stuart Raphael from Hunton & Williams, a firm from Fairfax, represented Fairfax Water, she said.
According to a transcript of Judge Williams’ decision, “it’s not likely that there will be any prevailing by [Weidman] on the merits of this case. We have problems withstanding, the problems that he doesn’t really own the wells for which he complains of and their proposed use,” he said.
Judge Williams added that it would be “difficult to show irreparable injury” to Weidman because he does not personally own the wells that provide water to Riverside Manor currently.
“We’re very disappointed in this outcome,” said Richard Bliss, a resident of Riverside Manor.
One of the discussion points the county cited was the 1993 agreement between Fairfax Water and the Board of Supervisors, which stated that a pipeline project with a diameter of less than 16 inches did not need prior approval by the Board of Supervisors to be installed, Bliss said.
“There are a number of factors involved, some are policy and some are legal,” he said. “The way I read the agreement, the Comprehensive Plan applies to all government decisions in regards to land use. Even if their argument was valid, Fairfax Water had an obligation to bring this before the Board of Supervisors”, he said.
The impact the pipeline project may have on the nature of Great Falls and potentially development, Bliss said, makes this an “obviously controversial” project, which should have warranted a hearing before the Board of Supervisors.
“Mr. Weidman did a credible job and he covered his issues well,” Bliss said. “He was by himself facing their four attorneys, and they needed every one of them.”
There are several factors that lead Great Falls residents to believe the waterline is being rushed to completion in order to eliminate the threat of legal action.
QUESTIONS HAVE been raised on everything from the amount of crews working to install the pipeline (two crews currently, with another to install hydrants) to the estimated completion time. Originally, residents of Riverside were told the project would take between six and nine months to complete, but the intense work schedule could have the project completed by May, Bailey said.
“Once we give a job to a contractor, it’s their decision as to what crews are working where and when,” she said. “We always give estimates on the long side of how much time it could take. We didn’t know if we’d run into rock, which would slow us down, and we wanted to bracket the worst case scenario.”
Each crew working on the installation of the pipeline can lay between 100 to 150 feet of water main each day, she said. “There are two crews working, so they could lay between 200 and 300 feet of water main daily,” she said. “We’ll finish ahead of the initial estimate but we don’t have a time frame for when it will be done. It may be as soon as next month sometime.”
She said she didn’t think “there’s anything out of the ordinary” with the speed at which the project is being completed.
David Karmol, president of the Riverside Meadows homeowner’s association, which shares a boundary line with Riverside Manor, doesn’t believe the speed of the project is just about being efficient.
“This is way too well orchestrated,” Karmol said. “They’re not this concerned about radon. This has to be about development. We have to be eternally vigilant. Apparently we weren’t quite vigilant enough.”
The homeowners association at Riverside Meadows passed a resolution at the April 3 meeting stating its own opposition to the waterline, although the project does not directly impact its development.
“We recall the argument over putting water in at Great Falls Elementary School in the early 1990s, when [Fairfax Water] promised they’d never try to put more water in north of Georgetown Pike,” Karmol said. A former member of the Great Falls Citizens Association, he said he remembers people being concerned at the time that if water was brought into the school, “soon they’d try to put in a water line up Arnon Chapel and Walker Road. Here we are, 10 years later, and everything they said they wouldn’t try to do they’re doing.”
Residents of Great Falls “have got to fight this because if we don’t, it sends a signal that they can run all over us,” he said. “We spent many years living in this community and we like it. We get irritated when outside groups come in and want to do something to change the characteristic of where we live.”
Outside groups, as he called them, “just don’t get it. They don’t get it. It’s not about 'do the residents want a waterline.' It’s about the characteristic of the community.”
HE SAID many residents have become disappointed in Dranesville Supervisor Joan DuBois. “I thought Joan had a great background to be a supervisor. We thought she would do something to get us a hearing [at the Board of Supervisors] or something, but she did nothing.”
Karmol said his homeowners association is not concerned about the possibility of Fairfax Water coming into Riverside Meadows because each home is on a private well. “But if they’re saying there’s radon in those wells, there must be radon in our wells too. No one from the Health Department is coming out here and saying we’re killing ourselves drinking the water,” he said. “If they expect to make a good story out of this, they need to be concerned about all of us.”
The case is still in litigation, prompting Weidman to decide not to comment on his lawsuit.
“If Mr. Weidman appeals this ruling, we’ll deal with the issues of his appeal,” said Stuart A. Raphael, a lawyer representing Fairfax Water from Hunton & Williams, a Fairfax City law firm.
“The court found his is not likely to win on the grounds of his appeal, which is why the temporary restraining order request was denied,” he said.
There are no other lawsuits pending regarding the Riverside Manor waterline, Raphael said.
“This result should be a good signal that this project is… legal,” he said.
Fairfax Water is in the business of “providing the best quality water for the cheapest price possible to its customers,” not controlling development, he said. “It is not in our province to decide growth issues. The Comprehensive Plan says sewer lines cannot be installed north of Georgetown Pike, but says nothing about restricting water lines.”