For the second time in as many months, a lawsuit has been filed against Fairfax Water concerning the Riverside Manor waterline.
Ten residents of Great Falls, under the banner of Citizens Against the Pipeline, or CAP, filed a lawsuit on May 10 claiming Fairfax Water did not follow the correct legal channels for installing a 12-inch pipeline without approval from the Fairfax County Planning Commission.
"From the beginning, Fairfax Water has done everything in its power to speed up this project to get it completed before the citizens of Great Falls had a chance to organize and have a hearing before public officials," said Jack Bowles, director of Citizens Against the Pipeline. "It is important that this project receives a full hearing. This project isn't just about the waterline, it's about the future of Great Falls."
The waterline in question is a 12-inch pipeline that would connect the 53 homes in Riverside Manor to the larger water system operated by Fairfax Water. The homes currently receive well water which residents say is as pure and healthy as the water supplied by Fairfax Water.
However, the project, which was approved by Fairfax Water in March and began construction the following Monday, is almost entirely installed and awaiting a few tests and adjustments before it is turned on to the homes.
"All of the pipeline has been installed underground and we're currently conducting some testing," said Jeanne Bailey, spokeswoman for Fairfax Water. "Once the pressure and quality tests are complete, we'll flush the system and all the hydrants in the Riverside Manor area. Within the next couple of weeks we'll probably be able to turn the system on," she said.
The project was originally estimated to take as many as six months but will be completed in less than three.
"We think it's a benefit to everyone to have the waterline done as quickly as it is," Bailey said. "I'm quite pleased we've been able to not disturb the community for longer than we had to and we've keep the traffic other disturbances to a minimum."
When asked if she knew of the lawsuit from Citizens Against the Pipeline, she said "I only knew that another suit had been filed. It is what it is. People have issues and concerns, and they're perusing them the best way they know how."
A previous lawsuit presented by Riverside Manor resident Rick Weidman was dismissed last month by Fairfax County Court.
Bowles said this second lawsuit has a different intention from the one presented by Weidman.
"We're seeking a declaratory judgment. We're only asking the judge to rule on the law and see if Fairfax Water violated the law by not presenting their plan to the Planning Commission," he said. "This lawsuit doesn't seek to undo what Fairfax Water has already done, but if the judge rules in our favor, at that point we'll have to re-evaluate what happens from there. If we're successful, we'll probably need another lawsuit to get the pipeline removed."
Fairfax Water has three weeks, until May 31, to file their written argument, Bowles said, and a hearing date will be set after their filing.
"In terms of the project being completed, Fairfax Water has know for some time that we were filing a lawsuit," he said. "It was their choice to proceed with the project. It's a situation that they have created to defeat the citizens and the court's jurisdiction."
Brian McCormack, a City of Fairfax lawyer, has been hired to represent Citizens Against the Pipeline but was unable to be reached for comment.
The pipeline has been installed by Casper Colosimo Inc. Leon Casilli, a vice president for Casper Colosimo and manager of the Riverside Manor project, said he was unaware of the second lawsuit.
There have been two crews working on installing the pipeline since the project began, Casilli said. "That's nothing out of the ordinary for a project," he said, responding to resident's concerns that extra crews had been assigned to the waterline to complete the project before any legal action could be taken. "As far as we're concerned, this is a standard job, a standard operation for us."
He confirmed that the project is nearing completion. "As far as I know, the connection [to homes in Riverside] will be made one day this week, but it depends on the weather."
To Bowles and the members of Citizens Against the Pipeline, the waterline at Riverside Manor is another example that "Fairfax Water is of the opinion that they can build waterlines wherever they want. That doesn't comply with the state law and it doesn't comply with what the citizens want," he said.
"How can the Comprehensive Plan mean anything if a public utility authority doesn't have to follow it," he asked.