Two months beforethe July 8 flooding, a catastrophic and expensive sewer failure occurred not far from Amazon’s new HQ.
That May 5 sewer failure, combined with the multiple July 8 sewer failures, graphically illustrate Arlington’s lack of integrated long-range planning and investment in Arlington’s below ground infrastructure (e.g., sewer, storm water, water mains) even as new development continues to get a green light.
Arlington needs to provide its unsuspecting residents with a direct warning that theyare going to bear the costs of this situation until Arlington gets its act together.
May 5 sewer failure
Miriam Gennari and her husband own a rental property in South Arlington in 22202. That property is near Restaurant Row on 23rd St., and across from the Crystal Houses at 1900 S. Eads where building owners currently are petitioning the County to build 4-6 new buildings and add 798 new units, significantly increasing density.
Late on the evening of May 5, Gennari’s renters reported water in the basement. When Gennari arrived, she discovered 8 inches or more of raw sewage which filled the main basement area and utility room.
Recognizing this was not a backed-up toilet issue, Gennari called Arlington Waste Management’s emergency number (703-228-6555). County personnel arrived with equipment in less than an hour and a half. As shown in the photo below, they snaked the main sewer line.
Then, the liquid drained from the property, leaving a blanket of decaying grime all over the renters’ personal possessions, the interior structure and the mechanical systems of the home.
An Arlington County government representative gave Gennari and her husband a card acknowledging that the sewer discharge into this rental property was caused by a sewer main line back up. The discharge might well have been prevented by more frequent maintenance of trouble and grease spots.
The Gennaris first called their home insurance provider who denied their claim because that provider does not offer sewer-line backup coverage on rental properties.
“Our homeowners insurance carrier at the time told us that they do not even carry an option for such coverage on rental properties; if we had known, we would have found an insurance company that did. If County leaders only had explained how serious our infrastructure weaknesses were, many residents would be better prepared for system failures and the implications of climate change,” Gennari said.
The Arlington County government referred the Gennari’s damages claim to its third-party processor, PMA Companies. Gennari knew they were in deep trouble when the first question the PMA representative asked was “what was the cause of the clog,” signifying that any claim might depend on evidence that already had been washed down the drain.
Ultimately, PMA denied Gennari’s claim in a letter with two short paragraphs. PMA asserted that the claim had been denied based on the County’s sovereign immunity and lack of notice, and Gennari’s case had been closed. Gennari and her husband have been left to pay almost $20,000 in damages to repair and restore the premises. Gennari’s tenants similarly received only an apology for their losses.
July 8 sewer failures
Sadly, on July 8, scores of other households throughout Arlington were hit with sewer backups, causing widespread damages. The County also has asserted a blanket defense of sovereign immunity with respect to these July 8 claims.
Under Virginia law, the County certainly can assert a sovereign-immunity defense, but “sovereign immunity is by no means a bullet proof vest” (at p. 12).
The County is devoting too much time trying to shift away from itself all the costs of disasters like the one that befell Miriam Gennari on May 5 — and residents throughout Arlington on July 8. The County is devoting too little time educating residents about the woeful state of Arlington’s infrastructure and the major new investments needed to fortify our aging sewer, stormwater, and fresh-water systems.
Arlington needs to admit we have problems below the surface and begin a transparent, interactive conversation with residents about the long-term costs and benefits of fixing Arlington’s aging infrastructure before another family gets soaked. Long-range fiscal and environmental planning must be a top priority.
Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.
In loving memory of Joseph Robert Kapacziewski, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 41.
In loving memory of James Stuart Edmonds, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 84.
A man was shot in front of a lounge on Columbia Pike early this morning, continuing a string of violent incidents.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 17124 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
YULA’s ultimate frisbee spring season is now open for registration. We offer programs for middle and high schoolers – open to all players, whether they are new or have previous experience.Middle SchoolIn the Middle School league, mixed-gender teams practice once during the week and have games on Sunday afternoons. Spring league is a fun, safe, and positive environment. The season begins mid-March and wraps up with a tournament in early June. There are several options for practice days, so we can often work around schedule conflicts with other sports & activities.High SchoolThe High School program is organized by school of attendance and teams are classified by gender. New players will learn the basics in a supportive, welcoming environment. Experienced players will continue to develop their skills, and enjoy competition with other high school programs. The season concludes with a state level championship tournament in late May.All players are guided by experienced coaches who emphasize sportsmanship and good spirit. Ultimate is a fun sport with great camaraderie!YULA does not want finances to limit anyone from participating. Our middle school program offers a “Pay What You Can” cost structure and our our high school program is offering a $50 discount to new players.Visit our website to register and learn more. Sign up with a friend, but don’t delay, the season starts in March!http://www.yula-ulti.org
The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village