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Fixing Bloomingdale's 100-year-old problem

Thursday - 4/10/2014, 8:01am  ET

WASHINGTON -- Part of D.C. residents' utility bills are paying to fix a century- old problem. D.C. Water is putting $700 million toward alleviating the continual flooding in a Northwest neighborhood.

New residents of one of D.C.'s up-and-coming neighborhoods may be surprised to hear flooding was first reported in the Bloomingdale neighborhood in the 1890s. That's about the time the sewer line was put in, says George Hawkins, general manager of D.C. Water.

"The question is, what would you do with a sewer line that's already 6 feet in interior diameter going to 22 feet that's not big enough?" he asks.

There's the option of digging up Florida Avenue for 10 years, but instead, Hawkins says, the utility will eventually connect the neighborhood to a massive tunnel being built under the Potomac River.

"That way, we add enormous new capacity to the system without having to dig up all the streets at the surface. That will solve this problem, largely," he says.

The tunnel, which taxpayers and D.C. Water customers are funding to the tune of $700 million, is slated to be complete by 2022.

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