News

F.C. Officials Lash Out at Dominion Power for Failure to Protect Water

‘Boil Water’ Order Due to Neglecting Priorities, They Say

A scathing indictment of Dominion Power’s alleged indifference to the vital needs of the City of Falls Church’s water system, resulting in a threat to public health requiring a “boil water” mandate from the City last weekend, highlighted an array of complaints by Falls Church City officials to the handling of the post-“derecho” storm power outages that continued to plague the City and surrounding areas well into this week.

crosswoodsstormDOWNED TREES and power lines block the way on Crosswoods Drive in the Lake Barcroft area of Falls Church following the powerful “derecho” storm that swept through the area late Friday night. (Photo: Larry Golfer)

 
‘Boil Water’ Order Due to Neglecting Priorities, They Say

A scathing indictment of Dominion Power’s alleged indifference to the vital needs of the City of Falls Church’s water system, resulting in a threat to public health requiring a “boil water” mandate from the City last weekend, highlighted an array of complaints by Falls Church City officials to the handling of the post-“derecho” storm power outages that continued to plague the City and surrounding areas well into this week.

Falls Church Mayor Nader Baroukh and Vice Mayor David Snyder did not mince words slamming Dominion Virginia Power for its failure to respond to the power outage crisis in a timely and efficient manner since the “derecho” storm Friday night knocked out power to over a half-million in Northern Virginia alone, and to 82 percent of Falls Church.

Baroukh said that more homes in Falls Church, as a percentage, were without power – including many that remain so as of this writing – than any other jurisdiction in Dominion Power’s service area.

In comments to the News-Press following their public statements at Monday’s City Council meeting, both Baroukh and Snyder lashed out at Dominion Power for its alleged indifference to security and infrastructure issues associated with the City’s water system.

“It took 40 hours for Dominion to restore power to all the City’s pumps on its water system,” Snyder intoned. “It took them more than 20 hours to restore one low-pressure pump, which resulted in the issuance of a “boil water” alert being sent out from the City. The order to boil water arose from persistent low pressure in that pump, and it had a devastating impact on restaurant and other retailers in the Tysons Corner mall and adjacent areas.

treeonleehighwayON EAST BROAD STREET in downtown City of Falls Church, a tree was knocked over entirely by the “derecho” storm that blasted through the region last Friday night. This one did not destroy any property or cost any human life in its fall, as others in the region did.. (Photo: News-Press)

“Dominion Power said that protection of critical infrastructure was their first priority, but if water delivery systems are not critical infrastructure, what is?” an angry Snyder said.

He said he is contemplating a formal complaint with the State Corporation Commission which has oversight over the operations of Dominion.

Baroukh said that he was frustrated by the lack of concrete information from anyone he talked to at Dominion, nothing which could provide for “a range for planning” by the City. In numerous conversations and conference calls with Dominion officials on the weekend after the Friday night storm, Falls Church City officials found they were offered no concrete information whatsoever.

As of Tuesday afternoon, significant areas of the City, especially residential areas including Mayor Baroukh’s own home, remained without power while temperatures continued unrelentingly in the upper 90s each day.

Barouk also said that he had major concerns for the regional breakdown of the Emergency 911 phone system, and said he spoke with Fairfax County’s Board Chair Sharon Bulova about that. Responsibility for the 911 system lies with Verizon in the region.

oakacrosssleepyhollowA GIANT OAK TREE brought down power lines and blocked the road after Friday’s storm on Sleepy Hollow Road in Falls Church. (Photo: Larry Golfer)

Falls Church Assistant City Manager Cindy Mester told the News-Press that officials from Dominion are tentatively due to meet with members of the City staff to review these and other matters in the third week of July.

The power of the storm was breathtaking, according to many reports to the News-Press. It not only involved amazing swift high winds, blasting off tree limbs and scattering outdoor furniture and toppling heavy rooftop air conditioning units on larger buildings, but there was also a strobe light effect, a constant bombardment of lightning, accompanying the high winds and rain, which by falling while air temperatures were still in the low 90s, created the effect of a mist. A number of trees in Falls Church and the region fell over, ripping up their roots.

It swooped through the area quickly, as it rode at 70 miles per hour from Illinois to the Eastern Seaboard, leaving devastation in its wake. There have been no reports of injuries locally, although more than a dozen deaths in the region resulted. Power was lost to millions of homes over the extent of the storm whose front ranged from New England to Georgia.

In Falls Church and environs, not only electrical power, but cellular phone systems for both AT&T and Verizon and Emergency 911 systems went down, some for 12 or more hours and others intermittently through the next days.

destructionsotmrA tree rests on a house and a car on Waterway Drive in Lake Barcroft. (Photo: Larry Golfer)

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called the storm the worst weather event, other than a hurricane, to hit Virginia ever. Its effect matched, if not surpassed, that of Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

In Falls Church, residents of some newer large scale mixed use projects found that part of their buildings would be without power, and then, seemingly inexplicably, other parts remained lit, while hallway flood lights, with independent battery power designed to provide only a half hour of use for emergencies, went dark.

Meanwhile, the Falls Church Community Center will continue to operate as a cooling station as long as there are people in the City without power. The Center will be open from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Thursday, 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. on Friday, 8:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. on Saturday and 2 – 6 p.m. on Sunday. And while not officially a cooling station, Mary Riley Style Library is open offering air conditioning and public computers.

City of F.C. homeowners who believe their homes suffered $25,000 or more in damage due to the storm are encouraged to contact the City’s Real Assessment Office at 703-248-5022 to report the damage.

The City of Falls Church also announced Tuesday that it will waive all fees for excess trash and brush collections in the wake of the storm. The next brush and solid waste collections, after those on July 4, are set for July 11.

dockserstormA sign warns of live wires due to a tree down on Dockser Terrace in Lake Barcroft. (Photo: Larry Golfer)