MEGHAN PATZER/THE HOYA Ward 2 constituents gathered Thursday night at the School Without Walls to discuss water issues in the District.
Ward 2 constituents gathered Thursday night at the School Without Walls to discuss water issues in the District.

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority held a meeting Thursday night for Ward 2 residents concerned about rising prices of residential water usage and the upcoming Clean Rivers Project, which aims to reduce sewage overflow.

The town hall meeting was cohosted by D.C. Water General Manager George Hawkins and Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans.

Hawkins focused first on the rising water costs that have been a recent point of conflict for DC residents. For fiscal year 2014, the average single family monthly bill will rise to $77.46, up by $6.28 from fiscal year 2013. This marks a net increase of $12.02 from just two years ago.

Hawkins partially attributed the rising rates to increased costs faced by D.C Water due to the Capital Improvement Program, an ongoing ten-year, $3.8 billion project for water and sewage infrastructure in the District.

“We realize that the costs are rising, but we also feel that they are necessary to cover the costs of projects that will ultimately benefit the residents of the city,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins also cited increased health costs for D.C. Water employees as a result of the Affordable Care Act for the increase in water prices.

Hawkins also responded to the mounting criticism from Ward 2 residents regarding D.C. Water’s Clean Rivers Project. As currently proposed, the initiative will involve digging beneath the Potomac River waterbed to create a 58-million-gallon storage tunnel that will reduce the amount of raw sewage that ends up in the river after storms.

Specifically, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission expressed concern about the size and placement of the shafts that would be required to build the tunnels. In order to connect the tunnels to the riverbed, project engineers may have to uproot green space between Washington Harbor and the Kennedy Center, according to Evans.

Hawkins admitted that the size, which would be the widest of these types of tunnels in the city, could potentially cause some disruption to residents living on the waterfront.

The meeting closed with concerns from Foggy Bottom and West End residents who complained about noise from ongoing construction projects in the area to repair aging pipes. Residents complained that repairs were performed during the middle of the night, making it difficult for them to sleep.

Hawkins responded to the criticism by telling residents that when pipes burst they must be attended to immediately, regardless of the hour.

“It’s ultimately our responsibility to listen to the needs of the residents,” Hawkins said. “However, it also needs to be understood that we can’t please everybody — though we will try — but reconstruction and maintenance will always be tasks that require intrusions.”

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