The storms that rolled through the area late on Monday, July 6th and early the next morning produced quite a light show. They also pummeled the region with rain. Trees fell, thousands lost power, roads flooded and Metro suspended service between Van Ness and Dupont Circle as water poured into the Cleveland Park and Woodley Park stations.
Soapstone Creek got an extended dose of the deluge.
Some of the runoff from the surrounding area flows directly into the Soapstone Valley. But most of the rain that lands on neighborhood roofs, driveways, sidewalks and streets is directed into gutters and then, storm sewer pipes. The water careens through this system and bursts through outfalls into Soapstone Creek. During this journey, the stormwater picks up pollutants and erodes the creek banks. The rush of stormwater also pushes tree branches against the culvert under Broad Branch Road, which causes the creek to jump its banks here and further erode the road.
The widely-used Soapstone Valley trail takes a regular beating. The Linnean storm sewer outfall has forged a new path to the stream and blasted away at the trail at this spot.
And the stepping stone crossing closest to Broad Branch Road has disappeared for the most part.
When it gets under way in two years, the massive Soapstone Valley sewer rehabilitation project will mostly address problems with the separate – and century-old – sanitary sewers running through the park. But it will also address and repair the stormwater erosion.
But in the meantime, storms like these cost time, labor and money to repair. Mitch Baer and JoAnn Shaner, volunteer Soapstone trail supervisors for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, have their work cut out for them after summer storms.
DC Water is responsible for keeping the culverts clear. Clean River charges on our water bill pay for this work, which is part of maintaining our stormwater system. And DDOT, supported by our taxes, maintains the Broad Branch roadbed that is regularly degraded by such flooding.