P Street Residents Blast Slow Water Main Work

Photo by Brian Kapur/The Current
After months of delays, DC Water says the road will be repaved by next Wednesday.
After months of delays, DC Water says the road will be repaved by next Wednesday.

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

When Georgetown advisory neighborhood commissioner Monica Roache heard that a water main replacement project was planned for P Street NW back in January, she wasn’t happy about the possible disruption to her street. She was reassured to hear it would be over by the summer.

Now winter is just around the corner, and the project still isn’t done.

At the neighborhood commission’s Nov. 30 meeting, Roache blasted representatives of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority — known as DC Water — for failing to provide concrete answers about the project delays. The representatives assured residents they are doing everything in their power to resolve the construction issues by Christmas. In a follow-up email to The Current on Tuesday, DC Water community manager Emanuel Briggs said the construction is expected to be cleared by Dec. 16.

P Street between 26th and 28th streets NW is dotted with potholes, uneven paving and steel plates that clang when cars drive over them, Roache told The Current. Driving there poses a threat to vehicles, she said, and the noise from the plates disrupts neighbors at night.

The project has posed other challenges to the neighborhood throughout the year as well, including a gas leak and a dispute over parking. The construction initially blocked parking on the street from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday, until Roache successfully advocated for a shorter timeframe upon noticing that construction typically wrapped up a couple hours earlier than expected.

DC Water is also frustrated with the project’s pace, the representatives said. They blamed the delays on the contractor, which they say asked for a six-month extension midway through its work. But dismissing that contractor would likely have made the project take even longer.

“We are pushing our contractor as hard as we possibly can to get him to perform as best as we can perform so that we’re out of there,” DC Water project inspector Brian Wilson said at the meeting.

Briggs wrote in an email that the contractor is new to the area and took longer than expected to adjust to the local regulations regarding work permits.

“This circumstance, in addition to other unanticipated issues experienced during construction, have each contributed to delay of the project completion,” Briggs wrote.

The contractor has already replaced the water main, leaving restoration of the street as the only major step left in the project. But workers can’t lay asphalt when the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, placing further pressure to finish the job quickly, before winter brings colder weather. “Where we are right now is at the long end of a job that has obviously caused a lot of distress,” Wilson said.

Roache said DC Water didn’t proactively communicate and interact with the community about the project. “If it wasn’t for me having people’s emails and keeping them updated, I’m sure they would have had more complaints than they did,” Roache said.    

Briggs told The Current that his staff has been in robust communication with the neighborhood.

“A series of updates have been provided via email to community stakeholders directly impacted by this project,” Briggs said. “In these updates, there has been clear communication of remaining construction activities and schedule for permanent restoration to roadways, sidewalks and all surfaces disturbed by our project.

Roache said she understands the work had to be done, but that doesn’t make the execution any less frustrating for her and her constituents. She said she hopes DC Water and the contractor will tackle future projects piece by piece, tearing up only one portion of the road before moving onto the next. “It’s been challenging for the neighborhood,” Roache said.

This article appears in the Dec. 9 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

5 Comments For This Article

David Abrans

I missed the ANC meeting but I'm wondering why DC Water hired Judlau as the contractor for this project when they faced at least one court case for fraud.

Anonymous

I came out this morning to them digging up with the machine literally on and around my car- I had to square around the whole neighborhood and took me 30 minutes. Let alone the BANGING right outside my door right before 7AM. UNACCEPTABLE!

Dick Weiss

If the quality of the "patch" work is reflective of the contractor's quality, I dread the "finished" job, especially now. I have never seen streets paved in December.

Drew Franklin

I've caught these guys putting up the Emergency No Parking cones the same day that parking restrictions were to take effect. District law requires them to be up 72 hours in advance. DC Water should not have contracted with this company to begin with and should never do so again.

Anonymous

My residence, on 26th Street (on the corner of 26th and East Place NW, between P and Q Streets), has endured substantial impact from this project since February 24th, when the pressure of water in the existing DC Water main and supply line surged causing the additional water and volume pressure to my home to rupture a rather new (copper) water supply line. This surge of water, not only ruptured the copper supply line; it also blew out my crawlspace, its joist, kitchen wall and floor, first floor ceiling and flooring of my 2nd floor bedroom and closet.

To add to the situation, I have personally experienced, from 6:45 AM on workdays, and numerous Saturdays, the screeching and shrill noise of (powered) concrete cutting of surface streets with diamond blades and bricks being trimmed by a (powered) concrete saw for a project phase most likely elsewhere; significant noise and intense vibrations of the long and imposing startup, repositioning and idling of diesel and gas-powered heavy equipment engines; the rallying and staging of the stored heavy equipment (usually 5+ pieces with both steel track and rubber tires); the arrival of Mack and other large-scale, diesel-powered dump trucks (oversized and overweight for our fragile, pre-1900 residences, neighborhood and streets); the incessant "beeping" noises of numerous contractors' equipment and vehicles in reverse gear; and, their lumbering movement, frequently relocating debris and materials, from projectphases throughout the East Village, to 26th and East Place, each day. In summary, the project's supply line surge, the heavy equipments' weight, vibrations and associated project use of jacking and jackhammers on 26th, 27th and East Place (for preliminary breakage of pavement for subsequent excavation), has seriously impacted my pre-1900 residence and compromised its structutal integrity.

Since February, the contractors have parked overnight (and throughout holidays, weekends and bad weather), multiple pieces of their large, heavy equipment; accessory items, such as extra backhoe and front-end loader buckets, bucket teeth, and broken/defective/deficient excavation implements; piles of historical bricks removed from the previous days' excavations (elsewhere in the East Village); mounds of sand, gravel and backfill material (delivered and off-loaded, on East Place in the street, by their Mack dump trucks); stacks of steel plates in excess of plates used for temporary excavation coverage; reinforcing steel mesh flat panels (not coils) taking up the equivalent of 2 parking spaces; and, a porta-john. In essence, a construction equipment storage (and at times repair and maintenance) yard has been in existence, in public space, between the 2600-2700 blocks of East Place, consuming 4-7 parking spaces.
In addition, there have been phone calls to the contractor to cleanup lengths of toilet paper blowing around the mounds of materials, East Place sidewalk and vegetation; the countless empty water bottles and fast food papers debris in the gutters embankment and tree wells. (The neighbors have provided a DC trash recepticle, placed by their heavy equipment storage area. It is being used; albeit, no5 by all workers and overflows due to not being placed for pickup by DC trash trucks.)

On numerous weekends, it has not been unusual to experience the 6:30 AM arrival,idling and accelerating of diesel engines during pumpout, of the porta-john by its "honeywagon"; the idling of diesel trucks refueling and servicing the "stored" heavy equipment; and lowboy trailers for the exchange, starting, idling, moving, loading, unloading, and departure as they reposition the heavy equipment for the contractors' requirements for the following Monday and work week.

It has been reported that Mr. Briggs stated there has been "robust communication" with the neighborhood. Personally, I have no knowledge or experience with "robust communication" from DC Water, particularly concerning DC Water's projections, contractors' anticipations, events concerning this project or how my residence and I may be affected.

Being among the recipients of Mr. Briggs mid-November email response to ANC Commissioner Monica Roach, through DC Water's John Lyle, I was encouraged by Mr. Briggs indicating the contractors' equipment would no longer be left on the neighborhood streets overnight, "going forward". Still, this situation continues and his statement has not come to pass.

Among the most fundamental activities of daily life, such as answering a phone call; one-on-one, in-person conversations; listening to news and music, electronically; entering one's home and front door without having to step into asphalt soft-patch steps and landings (for 5+ months) where original brick, in its historical pattern, was removed; and, admiring old brick and its patina in the herringbone and chevron-patterned sidewalk, while walking to the park to meet a friend, has diminished.....what is referred to as the quality of life; and home as a peaceful retreat and refuge.