Water Bills to Double in 10 Years for D.C. Residents

By Mila Mimica and Mark Segraves
|  Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013  |  Updated 11:26 PM EDT
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Sinkholes, water main breaks and flooding are all symptoms of a big problem underneath D.C. streets - though, fortunately, one that does not impact D.C.'s drinking water. News4's Mark Segraves got an exclusive, first-hand look at the damage underground.

Mark Segraves

Sinkholes, water main breaks and flooding are all symptoms of a big problem underneath D.C. streets - though, fortunately, one that does not impact D.C.'s drinking water. News4's Mark Segraves got an exclusive, first-hand look at the damage underground.

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Sinkholes, water main breaks and flooding are all symptoms of a big problem underneath D.C. streets, which could double water bills during the next 10 years.

News4's Mark Segraves got an exclusive, first-hand look at the damage underground.

Three billion gallons of raw sewage and rain water are dumped into Rock Creek, the Potomac and the Anacostia annually.

The cause of most of these problems is an antiquated system of water mains and sewers, much of which were built during the Civil War.

"In almost every major city, the infrastructure that's below our feet is slowly deteriorating," George Hawkins with D.C. Water said.

Segraves went 30 feet underground into the historic Tiber Creek sewer, which once flowed from the Potomac through the center of the city. In the 1860s, it became an open sewer running right in front of the Capitol. Ten years later, it was covered with brick and the city as we know it today was built on top of it.

"It was the single most important step in making this city a livable city," Hawkins said.

Today, most of the sewage from the old Tiber Creek sewer ends up at the Blue Plains Treatment Plant. However, the Tiber Creek varies in size - when large amounts of rain pummel the city, sewers like it can't handle it and end up overflowing into basements, streets or rivers.

D.C. Water is working to replace those aging water mains that keep breaking, but it's going to take a significant amount of time and money.

"We foresee rate increases coming almost every year as far as we can see in the future," Hawkins said. "So over 10 years,  you're seeing average bills double."

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