When it rains on Georgetown Pike, it floods.
To correct a drainage problem in one of several low-lying areas of Georgetown Pike, the road will be closed between Swinks Mill and Spring Hill Road for the duration of this week while two 15-inch pipes are installed.
"During the winter of 2003-2004, we had several reports of icy conditions on Georgetown Pike because of water crossing the road and freezing," said Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois. "We called the county and asked where the water was coming from, how much was crossing the road and what could be done to stop it."
Part of the problem was caused by the waiver of a required storm water pond when The Reserve was being constructed, DuBois said, which left no place for water to be collected from melting snow or heavy rain. The water would run downhill and cross Georgetown Pike, causing some flooding.
Another drainage pipe on Georgetown Pike, under Swinks Mill, was replaced last year because "it had collapsed," DuBois said. "The two problems are close together. Water coming from The Reserve, in the winter, was coming across that curve and freezing. These are not intertwined issues at all."
Initially, the plans for the pipe being replaced this week were designed to install one 30-inch pipe between Swinks Mill and Spring Hill Road, just north of The Reserve, under Georgetown Pike. However, it was decided that one large pipe would be "too big" for the area and that two 15-inch pipes would make more sense, DuBois said.
During the early stages of this project, DuBois said she had talked with McLean Citizens Association member John Adams and Bill May, a resident of The Reserve, about the installation of the pipe and the removal of some trees from The Reserve.
HOWEVER, ADAMS SAID, despite a smaller pipe than originally planned and a reduction in the initial number of trees removed, the pipe installation is "still over-designed."
Adams is also concerned about the placement of the new pipes.
"The problem is with water that comes down from the Scotts Run Nature Preserve," Adams said. "The preserve is uphill from Swinks Mill, where they're putting in the pipe. The Reserve is downhill."
"Water does not run uphill," Adams said. "The installation of that pipe near the Reserve will not reduce by a single drop the water that crosses Georgetown Pike."
DuBois disagrees. "Water is definitely coming down from The Reserve and crossing the Pike, and it was not helped by the collapse of drainage pipes near Swinks Mill," she said.
The pipe that was installed last year at Swinks Mill is being watched to see if it alleviates any of the problem as intended, she said. "We're not sure that will fully solve the flooding problem there."
As to water coming down from the Scotts Run Nature Preserve, DuBois said she was "not aware" of any connection between that water and the area being aided with the new pipes.
"The drainage that leaves The Reserve does not go into the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Swinks Mill," said May. "The spot where the existing culvert is being replaced is one location where drainage does come from The Reserve. The pipe being replaced is a single pipe that has been there for many, many years and hasn't been replaced since it was first installed, which may be about 60 years ago," he said.
WITH THE INSTALLATION of the new pipes, made of steel-reinforced concrete, "we expect that water will no longer top the road at this location as it has in the past," May said.
He has worked with Adams on the reforestation plan for The Reserve in the area where about a dozen trees were removed in order to further alleviate any storm water that may come downhill, he said.
"We won't be replanting full-grown trees," May said. "We will be using evergreen and deciduous trees and hope to use native plants to provide a nice green belt in an area where the work is being done. We're trying to do everything we can to see that the reforestation is done successfully."
The work is scheduled to be completed by the end of the week, DuBois said.
"We know it's inconveniencing people, but sometimes it's better to get in and get the problem dealt with," she said, crediting the county with waiting until early July, when schools are out and "more people are on vacation" to lessen the traffic problems caused by restricting use of Georgetown Pike. "We hope people will be patient."