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Bloomingdale, LeDroit Park Dodge Flooding Bullet This Time

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DC Water's George Hawkins, left, with another crew member in Bloomingdale Saturday. The agency was prepared to respond with sandbags and backhose in case of flash flooding during Saturday's storms. 
Patrick Madden
DC Water's George Hawkins, left, with another crew member in Bloomingdale Saturday. The agency was prepared to respond with sandbags and backhose in case of flash flooding during Saturday's storms. 

This weekend's powerful storm raised even more concern in Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park, two D.C. communities which have been hard hit this summer by a series of floods.

On Saturday afternoon in Bloomingdale, with a fast-moving thunder storm about to hit,  neighbors gathered at the Big Bear Café, a popular coffee shop. One of them, Noah Kunin, has already helped two of his friends  pile up sandbags.

In his mind, the biggest problem is the area's antiquated sewer system. "It's unfathomable in the 21st century to have a combined sewer main line," says Kunin. "The fact that a neighborhood that's becoming a really great place to live has to deal with 19th century infrasture at the same time. 

 The Bloomingdale neighborhood got lucky over the weekend; the storm knocked down some trees, but there didn't appear to be any serious flooding. But DC Water, the agency in charge of the area's water and sewer lines — wasn't taking any chances. General Manager George Hawkins was on the scene with a crew and some heavy-duty equipment and sandbags just in case the sewers started overflowing. 

"It's not optimal, but it's what can be done right at somebody's residence or dwelling to stop the immediate flooding risk," Hawkins says. 

The long-term fix for the neighborhood's flooding woes will be the Clean Rivers Project, a $2.6 billion  project to revamp the city's sewers, tunnels, and waterways. But it won't be complete until 2025.

In the meantime, a D.C. task force chaired by Hawkins is looking at other solutions: rebates for flooding equipment, aggressive inspections of sewer lines and rain barrels to reduce runoff.

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