Mount Rainier utility repairs take toll on residents -- Gazette.Net


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When Eloise Canfield of Mount Rainier returned to her Bunker Hill Road home after a weekend trip, she said she was greeted by piles of concrete, broken sidewalks and a car trapped in her driveway.

She said the rubble was one of many inconveniences her block has encountered due to an ongoing multi-utility repair effort that has inconvenienced residents, in part due to a lack of communication with the companies involved.

“They’re busting their butt out there, but there’s something that’s not right about everything that’s going on,” Canfield said.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, Washington Gas Co. and Pepco have been performing various tasks throughout the city since 2011, said Mount Rainier Mayor Malinda Miles. “We have had lots and lots of complaints,” said Miles, citing a gas leak and a flooded basement that residents blamed on the companies.

Over the last few months, the WSSC has worked with contractors to fix sewer pipes on Bunker Hill Road as part of a systemwide upgrade, WSSC spokesman Jerry Irvine said. Irvine said the WSSC has been responsive to complaints and that residents should call 301-206-8100 if they are experiencing problems with WSSC or its contractors.

“Watching how they progressed through there, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of coordination,” said Anthony Lee, a Bunker Hill Road resident who works in construction management.

Bunker Hill Road residents said they have dealt with noise and dust pollution since the summer, but the worst came Oct. 18, they said, when the block between 30th and 31st streets could not be used by vehicles and residents didn’t receive proper warning.

Louis Young, project manager at the Beltsville-based IPR — a company contracted by WSSC to do the work in the city — said his team verbally notified residents before the road was closed.

Canfield, who wasn’t in town when the verbal notifications were given, said there needs to be a more comprehensive list of what is being done and when.

“There should be a plan of what steps are going to be taken,” Canfield said.

Miles said communication with the utility groups and the city has been problematic, but has improved in recent months. Council members have had several meetings with the utility groups since April, including an Oct. 10 meeting with WSSC and Washington Gas, she said.

IPR put temporary pavement on the block Oct. 24, allowing for Washington Gas to continue working on that portion of Bunker Hill Road. By mid-November, Washington Gas is expected to complete upgrades on its remaining mains and service lines from 33rd Street to 30th Street on Bunker Hill Road, said Mariam Nabizad, spokeswoman for the company.

Nabizad did not respond to requests regarding communication concerns.

Pepco’s regional vice president Jerry Pasternak said Pepco is mindful of the impact the work may cause to customers and strives to address concerns.

“We are committed to providing the safe and reliable electric service that our customers demand and deserve,” Pasternak said.

Irvine said WSSC will likely wait until next year to restore the road because asphalt plants go offline during winter. By spring, there will be a fully paved road with new curbs and sidewalks, he said.

egoldwein@gazette.net