The Washington Post

Raspberry Falls residents back away from lawsuit against Loudoun Water

At a court hearing Wednesday, residents of Raspberry Falls, a community north of Leesburg that has long complained about water-quality problems, backed away from a lawsuit they had filed against Loudoun Water.

After years of concerns about possible water contamination in the subdivision, more than 250 residents filed the lawsuit Feb. 17 against Loudoun Water and several developers and construction companies. It was the second lawsuit the plaintiffs had filed against Loudoun Water; the first was dismissed last year.

At the hearing Wednesday in Loudoun County Circuit Court, Ted Yoakam, an attorney for the Raspberry Falls residents, asked that his clients be allowed to file a voluntary nonsuit, which means that the complaint against Loudoun Water would be effectively dismissed but that the plaintiffs would retain the right to refile the lawsuit at any time.

The attorneys for Loudoun Water opposed the motion, according to a statement from Loudoun Water officials.

“While Loudoun Water looks forward to the case being dismissed, Loudoun Water prefers that the case be dismissed with prejudice or that it proceed to a trial on the merits,” the statement said.

According to Loudoun Water, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have stated that it is unlikely that the Raspberry Falls residents would refile the complaint.

A decision by the court was pending Friday.

Yoakam declined to comment on his clients’ decision to file the nonsuit.

Some of the lawsuit’s complaints — including the allegation that Loudoun Water engaged in fraud and misrepresented the risks associated with contaminated water to Raspberry Falls residents — were dismissed by the Loudoun County Circuit Court on May 6. The lawsuit accuses Loudoun Water and the other defendants — including Van Metre Co., Marquis Custom Homes, VMK Associates Joint Venture, Virginia Residential Construction, Loudoun County Sanitation Authority and K. Hovnanivan Homes of Virginia — of actively concealing the hazards of contaminated water in the community.

The 960-acre community is within a “limestone overlay” area, meaning that the subdivision’s communal wells are surrounded by a rocky terrain that does not filter surface water as effectively as sand or soil. Residents have long expressed concerns that the underground channels in the limestone allow contaminants to enter the untreated water supply.

The residents’ concerns intensified in November, when one of the two communal wells that provide water to the 134 homes in Raspberry Falls was disconnected after the Virginia Department of Health found that the untreated groundwater was under the direct influence of surface water.

Loudoun Water’s board of directors voted in January to examine several potential solutions to the problem, including the possibility of extending a central water pipeline from Leesburg to Raspberry Falls.

Caitlin Gibson is a feature writer at The Washington Post.

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