Since early October, when the Washington area was hit by seven inches of rain, Edmonston residents have spent much of their spare time cleaning in and around their now-dry homes. Many of them have a list of projects to tackle. Some have yet to replace washing machines, dryers and other appliances and furniture ruined by the high rainwater.
It was the second time in less than two years that townspeople had to contend with flooding in their homes and pay thousands of dollars to pump water out and replace lost items. After each flood, residents pleaded with Prince George's County, which operates the pumping station that moves rainwater away from the town, to address the problem so that they wouldn't have to wade through soggy basements and yards again.
Officials with the Prince George's Department of Public Works and Transportation attributed the flooding to a malfunctioning pumping station that is more than 50 years old.
In October, Haitham A. Hijazi, director of the public works and transportation department, explained that the pumping station carries water from four drains away from Edmonston. He said the pumps failed because of an electrical short. Officials also said that when the water reaches a certain level, the pumps are supposed to automatically drain into the river. Instead, the water backed up into the community.
Now, it seems, help is on the way.
A contractor hired by the public works department recently began digging out muddy brown silt from the storm drain pond in front of the Edmonston Pumping Station.
So far, crews have collected 200 truckloads of mud and still have more dredging to do. Clearing the storm drain pond will allow more room for rain runoff to collect, officials said.
"This is the most activity we've seen here in 50 years," said Edmonston Mayor Adam Ortiz, obviously delighted with the county's decision to address the pumping issue.
Sophia Bee, 37, who lives on Taylor Road across the street from the pumping station, is delighted, also. "I've survived six floods," said Bee, who has lived in her home since 1996. "This is the first time action has been taken.''
Susan Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the public works department, said the dredging is one of several steps the county is taking to address the storm and flood issues.
"We want to do whatever we can as expeditiously as we can to help residents in that area," she said.
Hubbard added that the department has pumps on reserve in case it rains heavily in Edmonston and the pumps fail again. The department is also expected to present the County Council with a plan to create new pumps for the town. The council must approve the plan.
Meanwhile, Ortiz said, the county has vowed to provide financial assistance to residents affected by the two floods. A special panel will review reimbursement submissions from residents. "Some residents are really hurting," Ortiz said, particularly the elderly and people on fixed incomes.
Mary Temarantz, 84, is one of those residents.
She has lived in her 49th Avenue home for the past 42 years and has weathered several floods. Last year's July 4th storm left her with $10,000 worth of damage in her basement. She made the repairs. She said the county denied her claim for reimbursement at the time. "Maybe they'll follow through this time," Temarantz said of the county's vow to reimburse affected flood victims. "I hope they live up to their promises," she said.