ANC 3F hosted the session at The Methodist Home, and has posted a video so you can see it for yourself. (Note The presentation starts 8 minutes in, and the audio starts out low. Try listening with headphones at first.)
Don’t have time to listen? Stay tuned: We’ll have more for you here soon.
The day before the meeting, The Northwest Current published the following article about the National Park Service’s concerns.
Park Service Questions Sewer Work
by Brady Holt
Current staff writer
Plans to rehabilitate sewer lines in two federal parks in Northwest are facing resistance from the National Park Service, which is worried about the likely impact on the parks’ trees.
The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority has proposed rehabilitating its aging sanitary-sewer pipes in long stretches of Glover Archbold and Soapstone Valley parks. The agency’s first proposal was to build access roads for construction and maintenance vehicles, and conduct its work along 1.4 miles in Soapstone Valley — an offshoot of Rock Creek Park in Forest Hills — and along 4.3 miles of Glover Archbold from near Tenleytown to around the Potomac River.
“The National Park Service has had a heart attack about it,” project manager Jessica Demoise said at [the July 10th] Wesley Heights/Foxhall advisory neighborhood commission meeting. “They said it would affect too many trees, so we’re looking at, ‘Where is the pipe in worst condition?’”
Park Service spokesperson Megan Nortrup said in a brief interview that the federal agency hasn’t taken any formal action yet.
“Of course our priority is to protect the natural resources that we are obligated to care for,” said Nortrup. “Right now we’re still gathering information and considering all the options on the table and the comments that are coming in from the public.”
If the water authority, also known as DC Water, focuses on isolated repair work, there would be less short-term impact on the park but a greater risk of pipe failure in the future, said Demoise.
“So far, none of the options has a low-enough impact that the Park Service would be comfortable with it,” she said in an interview after the meeting. “So we might have to do it piecemeal, which we really don’t want to do.”
Estimates have varied wildly about how much the project will affect trees, but no one is questioning that the impact would be large under the water authority’s original plan. The authority’s count of trees in the potentially affected area included 600 to 800 in Glover Archbold Park and 200 in Soapstone Valley, Demoise said after the meeting. The figures include only trees with a diameter of at least 17.5 inches, the D.C. standard for a “special tree.”
Demoise noted that these tallies — along with the Park Service’s separate estimates of several thousand affected trees — reflect the total number of trees in the area where the water authority intends to work, not necessarily the number that will be cut down. “We will not be going in and clear-cutting no matter what we do,” she said.
The bulk of the disruption would come from 14-foot-wide access roads built along the length of the pipes, which would allow access for construction vehicles and a vacuum truck that would periodically clean out the sewage pipe, Demoise said. Because that access isn’t available now, the pipes are suffering from a lack of maintenance, she added.
“Both sewer systems have pipe segments and manholes with cracks, fractures, holes, and root growth inside the pipe,” water authority spokesperson Pamela Mooring wrote in an email to The Current earlier this month. “Although the sewers are not known to be leaking at present, DC Water is acting proactively.”
Another alternative that has been raised is to relocate the pipes outside of parkland. Demoise said moving the pipes would make them more convenient for maintenance, but the process to reroute sewage flow and install large new fixtures would be extremely difficult. A series of pumping stations, including at least one large facility, would also be required under this option, because the sewage would no longer simply follow gravity.
The work remains at least two years distant, according to Demoise. Under the best-case timeline, the water authority would have a completed project plan approved by the Park Service by December 2014, have a contractor in place six months later, and then begin work in summer 2015.
About six months of work is envisioned at each of three project sites: Soapstone Valley, and northern and southern Glover Archbold. The work may take place concurrently and might be allowed to take place only in winter to minimize impact on the parks, said Demoise. Temporary above-ground pipes would likely carry the sewage while the work is carried out.
The worst-case scenario, Demoise said, would be for the project to not take place at all. If that happens, the pipes would continue to deteriorate and would ultimately fail. At that point, the water authority would need to replace the pipes on an emergency basis — and clean up spilled sewage in the parks.
The Park Service is soliciting input online — the site is available at tinyurl.com/pipe-project-comment — through Aug. 18.
Reprinted, with permission, from the July 17th issue of The Northwest Current,