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Mantua Residents Put Down Roots

Wonus purchased her first house in Mantua -- a 1967-built Cape Cod on Prince William Drive -- in 1968. The house used to be on a cul-de-sac. Now Prince William Drive has speed humps to slow traffic. In 1992, Wonus moved to a different house in the neighborhood, one that was originally a 4,400-square-foot Colonial. She has added about 900 square feet.

Wonus notes that many Mantua residents have chosen to move to larger or smaller houses within the neighborhood rather than leave. Some families pass their homes down to their children, who return to raise their own families there.

Lou Brenner, who heads the Mantua citizens group, holds son Erik while wife Monika holds son Nicholas. Residents are an involved group. (Susan Straight For The Washington Post)


BOUNDARIES: Prosperity Avenue to the east, Pickett Road to the west, Arlington Boulevard the north and Little River Turnpike to the south.

SCHOOLS: Mantua Elementary, Robert Frost Middle and W.T. Woodson High schools.

HOME SALES: Eighty-five houses sold in the past 12 months at prices from $425,000 to $830,000, said Mary Thyfault Clark of Weichert Realtors. Six houses under contract, at prices from $619,00 to $699,900. There is one active listing at $620,000.

WITHIN FIVE MINUTES BY CAR: Fairfax Hospital, Capital Beltway, Interstate 66, Vienna, Merrifield, Vienna Metro, Woodson High School, Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Campus, city of Fairfax.

WITHIN 15 MINUTES BY CAR: Tysons Corner, Fair Oaks Mall, George Mason University, Burke, Falls Church.

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"People who buy here are not pretentious. This is not a fancy neighborhood, despite the high prices," she said.

Although the community has never had a homeowners association, the citizens association requires that additions be proposed to an architecture and environmental review committee. The committee distributes the proposals to the 15 closest neighbors for comment. Ultimately, the association lets the neighbors work things out if there is any opposition to proposals such as placing a shed or a cell tower in a front yard.

"We don't have enforcement power, but we can nudge people," Brenner said.

Mantua was in the headlines in 1990 when the adjacent Pickett Road tank farm seeped about 200,000 gallons of oil into the groundwater of about 20 houses along Tovito Road and Convento Terrace on the southwest side of Mantua. Though the tank farm was used by four different vendors at the time, an investigation pointed to Texaco's tanks as the source of the leak, recounted Steve DelBianco, a former Mantua resident who led the community effort to monitor the cleanup.

Texaco settled with individual homeowners, including pricing protection for pre-spill home values. Plus, the corporation asked the Mantua Citizens' Association for suggestions about how to invest in the community, according to DelBianco.

Texaco followed the association's recommendations, providing grants and state-of-the-art computers for Mantua Elementary, funding for the citizens association and swim club, visual enhancements for the community and a long-term environmental consultant, according to DelBianco. The consultant reviews the regular reports that tank farm users are required to file with the Environmental Protection Agency, the city and county of Fairfax and the Mantua Citizens' Association.

Fifteen years later, there is no lasting damage as a result of the spill, DelBianco said. "The cleanup was executed extremely well, to the point where there is currently no exposure by which contaminated ground water can reach homes in any way."

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