Pr. George’s gets draft engineering report on Fort Washington landslide


Prince George’s work crews cut down large trees in danger of falling, exposing the hillside where a landslide triggered evacuations for residents in the Fort Washington neighborhood of Piscataway Hills, they are seen here on May 16, 2014. (Arelis R. Hernandez/The Washington Post)

Prince George’s County government officials on Monday received a draft of an engineering report about a landslide that triggered evacuations of dozens of homes in Fort Washington this month.

Because the document is a draft, officials said, they will not release it to the public.

The geotechnical firm KCI Technologies spent the weekend analyzing data from soil samples it collected from a hillside that is gradually collapsing in the Piscataway Hills development. The information should help engineers predict whether Piscataway Drive and the hillside can be stabilized so that displaced residents can safely return to their homes.

“We hope the data we’ve collected will give us a clear picture,” KCI engineer Ken Briggs said. “We intend to provide conceptual recommendations.”

The reports’ findings are of intense interest to residents who fear that they might lose their homes. The landslide is thought to have caused structural damage to six houses on the sloping ridge. Others are thought to be intact but cannot be reached safely because of the ruptured road, authorities said.

County Executive for Prince George's County, Rushern Baker, surveyed storm damage in Fort Washington that prompted officials to evacuate nearby homes. (Arelis Hernandez/The Washington Post)

During a Friday meeting in Fort Washington, tensions flared when residents were told that the KCI report might not be immediately available to them.

Scott Peterson, a spokesman for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), said county attorneys need time to review the report and plan the county’s next steps. Officials said they understand the residents’ sense of urgency and promised to release the information promptly.

Meanwhile, the Piscataway Hills community association said it has hired an independent engineering firm to review the report once it is released.

State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s) has connected homeowners to pro bono lawyers to help with any legal issues related to the slope failure. The earth continues to move, and each rainstorm brings increased worry.

The neighborhood was evacuated May 5 after the hillside partially collapsed, felling trees, breaking water and sewer lines and cracking the main road.

Displaced residents have spent the past two weeks with friends and relatives or in hotels around the region. For some, the anxiety is mounting.

“It’s unacceptable,” said resident Madeleine LaSalle, who has been staying in a relative’s Arlington living room with her husband and 18-year-old daughter. Because of the cramped situation, LaSalle said, her daughter has gone to live with another relative.

Arelis Hernández covers Prince George’s County as part of The Washington Post's local staff.
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