09 June 2008

WASA Big Idea? Part 1

Blogging encourages a certain level of hyper-local reporting. And starting today, Intangible Arts will beat the SNOT out of the idea, drilling the idea of "hyper-local" down to a single block of Irving Street NW, between Georgia Avenue and Warder Street.

The reason is simple: The DC Water and Sewer Authority will be transforming this block into a war-zone for nearly three months, as part of their program to replace lead service pipes. And the photo-ops will be many, since Intangible Arts HQ is right in the middle of it.

WASA appears to be doing this in a block-by-block sweep across certain areas affected by lead pipes. And so I figured: maybe someone in the area is still waiting for this to go down on their block, and might dig hearing about it beforehand. Because we certainly had questions. And still do.

The idea is, simply, to replace any lead pipes up to the boundary of private property. But WASA has provided access to a contractor to handle the homeowner's side of the pipe. Que convenient! We opted for this as well. The full monty. Bring it on.

We were given early notice of this project months ago, with only the vague warning that AT SOME POINT, we'll be given 48 hours' notice before the destruction begins. And that notice arrived last Friday.

A trench will be dug (presumably along the public sidewalk) to reveal the main service pipe, and individual 5'x5' test-pits will be dug at each rowhouse unit to determine what sort of pipe is down there. So say goodbye to those day-lilies, hostas, or that festive ragweed garden you've been tending for years...

There will be blood.

This weekend, the trees along Irving Street were caged in bright orange safety-mesh, and a plague of equally bright orange traffic-cones appeared, ready for action. It seemed amusing, since the city just planted those trees recently. Clearly there's a lack of communication between divisions here.

The tone here may sound cynical, but this is actually a good thing. Theoretically, once the service pipes are all lead-free and consist of the same (or similar) metals, our first blast of tap-water in the morning should NO LONGER smell like Satan's own leftover egg salad. And that will be a joyous day in Intangible Land.

So, stay tuned: This is merely the introduction to what should be a freakin' fascinating series. If you had fun watching the grass grow, watching paint dry, or meditating on TV static, buddy, you ain't SEEN real fun yet. Updates will follow. Oh yes they will.


Steve said...

Yikes! Does that mean there's been lead in your water all this time?? (Thinking about my own undoubtedly lead-laden municipal infrastructure.)

Thanks for the tip re. the bagels! I'm not a big bagel eater, believe it or not, but maybe I just haven't tried the right ones. Kings Highway, here I come!

IntangibleArts said...

Steve: ah yes, DC water and lead contamination have been dancing-partners for a long time.

As for the bagels, this is the place. Kings Highway at about Ocean Ave. Check out my caption in the flickr page for the disclaimer: looks like the place has changed hands, or something, since that First Sacred Brooklyn Bagel. It was still awesome, though perhaps not the religious experience it was before...

Anonymous said...

As the owner of a rowhouse with one of those cracking, leaning aging random-granite retaining wall, I am worried...although my treebox is not planted I have a handsome young redbud right in the middle of the upper yard.
I was home at noon and there were already 5 big deep holes in the MIDDLE of the street with men hand digging - what a job in this heat.

IntangibleArts said...

We're definitely curious/concerned about what kind of digging will be required on the private side of the pipe, since our place is up off the sidewalk like the others.

Also curious about a few of our neighbors who have nice black iron fences around their front yards. With it all be ripped up? Either way, we're definitely looking at crazy destruction for a long time.

Mike said...

WE had this done a year or so ago. They did, indeed, rip up pretty much our entire (15x10 ft) front yard, taking out a lot of plantings. Before work began, we relocated the best stuff, but, yeah, we lost a lot.

We also opted for the contractor to replace the line all the way. That part went pretty smoothly. I did have to take a day off work, but the workers were fast and efficient. The only access to our crawl space is through a trap door inside our house, but the workers laid down plastic and avoided making a mess.

Dunno about the fencing. The pipes are typically well below the ground, so the fencing *might* not be a problem.

mr-t-in-dc said...

You know, I just don't think the end result is worth all the destruction and expense. They're ruining multiple levels of infrastructure for a questionable improvement. I'd rather they just hand out Brita filters to everyone. They seem awfully slow to repair the damage, and haven't done a good job (asphalt patches on brick sidewalks, etc).

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr.T. - so much money and destruction. About 10 years ago DC DID distribute, free, the filtering pitchers and they were great. But I read in the literature distributed by WASA in advance of this work that the filter pitchers are no longer considered a govt.-approved lead-reduced water source. (Maybe because people quit using them or changing the filters when they find out how costly the replacement filters are) If brick sidewalks are being patched with asphalt, what of our granite retaining walls?

IntangibleArts said...

All great points, Mike/T/Anon: I'm definitely not expecting WASA to be delicate in their treatment of our block. The way I see it, we don't have much choice but to go through with the full deal, private-side replacement & all.

BUT we spoke with WASA's provided contractor, who said they haven't had nearly as much private-side work to do on Irving Street as they thought. Meaning, I think, after many of those 5x5 survey-pits were dug, there wasn't a whole lot of lead pipe down there.

But still, on the public side, I'm definitely expecting WASA to leave behind the ugliest sidewalk patches on earth. And yes: We absolutely share that question on the retaining walls.

But for what it's worth, I'll be out there reportin' the crazy hell out of this. Gotta get my jollies somehow.