D.C. Promises Help for Flood-Prone Residents

When it rains, it floods in some historic D.C. neighborhoods, which is why Mayor Vincent Gray and city officials are promising to help residents battle the storm water and sewage overflows that threaten 100-year-old houses.

Three times in less than two weeks in July, heavy rains flooded streets in Bloomindale and LeDroit Park. Storm water and sewage gushed into homes.

“But what is even worse is the emotional toil that it takes on family, the emotional strain,” said Teri Janine Quinn, of the Bloomingdale Civic Association. “It's just unreal to have to be scared of rain, to have to be scared because it's cloudy outside.”

Betsy Daniels bought a once-vacant home and moved in last December after three years of renovations and rebuilding. She now depends on sandbags to block some water, but they don't help when water rises from the ground.

“The issue is it has sewage in it,” she said. “Your basement is covered in sewer water.”

She said flooding caused $15,000 to her neighbor’s home.

“When you have so much debris and stench in the center of your home, it's quite disconcerting,” LeDroit Park resident Myla Moss said.

Gray and city officials joined residents Tuesday, forming a task force and promising short-term solutions by December, including better storm drain management and financial help with flood barriers for the homes. A massive new sewage system won't be ready until 2025.

“If your basement is flooding in 2012, it's not a major consolation that there's a solution on the way in 2025,” said Alan Heymann, of D.C. Water.

The area has experienced flooding over decades because of its topography and outdated storm-water systems, but new construction and businesses may also be adding to the overwhelmed system.

“While the longer term solution we know will solve the problem it’s just too far out,” Gray said. “We just can’t wait that long to bring relief to the people who live in these two communities.”

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