Broken Fountains: 40% of Water Features at the Mall's Memorials Aren't Working. Here's Why. - NBC4 Washington
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Broken Fountains: 40% of Water Features at the Mall's Memorials Aren't Working. Here's Why.

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    The National Park Service has a $850 million deferred maintenance list for projects that need to fixed on the National Mall. (Published Friday, Sept. 2, 2016)

    Washington DC is a city full of fountains. But not all of them are actually working.

    The News4 I-Team had found that 40 percent of the water features at memorials on the National Mall are not working.

    The news follows an I-Team story about a broken fountain at Banneker Park in Southwest. After that story, the National Park Service asked viewers to contact them with other problems.

    Tour guides pointed the I-Team to the Frank Delano Roosevelt Memorial, where waterfalls and pools have not been working for a while.

    "We did. We heard from people," said Mike Litterst, with the National Park Service.

    He said the agency also heard from viewers about FDR and other locations.  "I got something on Twitter this morning about DuPont Circle and forwarded that on to the maintenance crew. And I think they'll be out there this week. It got a little rain water that came in got a little green."

    The day the I-Team visited the FDR memorial, repair crews were working on one of the waterfalls. A second waterfall started working while our crew was there -- water slowly, but surely, flowing again.

    Another pool sat drained to keep the mosquitoes away.

    Litterst said some fixes, such as the DuPont Circle fountain, are relatively easy to address. Others, like FDR, can take longer.  

    "We had motors they were out in some places. Sensors that were out in some places. Maintenance staff spent most of last week out here draining pools, cleaning them making the repairs," Litterst said.  

    "This is the most of the features that I've seen working just in the time that I've been out here," he added.

    Litterst admitted it's a challenge for the National Park Service to keep up with the 25 water features on the National Mall, each with about 45 different pieces that need to be maintained.

    "It's a matter of resources and simply prioritizing," Litterst said.

    The D.C. Council tweeted the I-Team the day the original story aired, saying members would love to see the fountain at Freedom Plaza working again. The price tag to fix it is $200,000.

    Fixing fountains can be expensive: Park Service documents show the 40 percent of the water features on the mall that not working are too expensive to fix. They are now on the agency's "deferred maintenance" list, a to-do list totaling more than $850 million.

     

     

    The grand-daddy of all broken fountains is the 115-year-old Columbus Fountain at Union Station. Many don't even realize it is a fountain, because it's been dry for decades.  

    "That's an $8 to $10 million project that, with the parks and maintenance budget of $2.5 million of discretionary maintenance funds a year to get that done -- that's three years’ worth of work if we do nothing else anywhere else around the National Mall,” Litterst said.

    He explained it's so expensive because portions of the fountain need be removed to get to the problems underneath and may require a private donation to get the water flowing here again.

    That's how the George Mason Memorial got going again, thanks to a non-profit trust fund.

    "Congress has stepped up for the Centennial; National Park Service got $90 million extra this year that we didn't get previous years," Litterst said.

    Many of those projects are still pending or just getting underway. But the Park Service has completed about a half dozen projects on its deferred list, including restoring mall turf and walkways in Constitution Gardens and repairing the Lincoln reflecting pool.

    And if the fountains can't get fixed, they will probably remain empty for a reason: the Park Service wants to prevent mosquitoes from growing while they figure out how to get them fixed.

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    The National Park Service said it really does want you to let them know when something doesn't look right at one of their properties. You can tweet them at @NationalMallNPS or call 202-426-6841.

    This story was reported by Tisha Thompson, produced by Rick Yarborough, photographed by Jeff Piper and Steve Jones, and edited by Jones.