Dirt that had accumulated atop a three-story parking garage at the Watergate in Foggy Bottom caused the May 1 partial collapse that injured two people, shut down several businesses and halted construction at the famed complex, D.C. officials said.
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs on Friday issued notices of infraction to a construction company and a landscaping firm that were doing work within the 10-acre complex. The agency said the companies were cited for “exceeding the allowable loads on top of the structure.”
“The weight of accumulated dirt on top of the structure exceeded the weight that the structure was designed to support,” said Matt Orlins, a DCRA spokesman, noting the conclusion was reached following multiple inspections. “As a result, a portion of the structure collapsed.”
The agency did not say how much the dirt weighed or how much weight the structure could support.
Grunley Construction is managing a $125 million renovation of the Watergate Hotel, near the area of the collapse. A spokeswoman for the company said Friday that “the cause of the Watergate garage collapse is still under investigation” and that the company would not comment beyond that statement.
Developer EuroCapital Properties issued a statement that read in part: “EuroCapital Properties are still in the midst of investigating the forensic evidence and have yet to receive the report. We have no comment on the cause or causes of the collapse until the forensic investigations are completed.”
Authorities said a 75-by-100-foot section of the garage collapsed, causing several water pipes to break. About 100 cars were in the garage, and about one-third were damaged or destroyed, they said.
Several businesses and shops at the nearby Watergate plaza, including a CVS Pharmacy that flooded, closed for days. Between 200 and 250 construction workers who were at the site were evacuated, and work at the hotel was halted for a few days. The collapse also prompted the closure of several lanes in the 2600 block of Virginia Avenue NW, disrupting traffic to and from Rock Creek Parkway.
DCRA on Friday did not provide copies of the citations, the names of the companies cited or details of the violations. Orlins would only say that the infractions carry fines, but not the amount of the fines.
Residents in the complex — made famous by the 1972 burglary that led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon — had complained about the accumulating dirt on the property.
George Arnstein, 90, who lives in a unit facing the portion of the garage that collapsed, said for months he watched from his balcony as soil accumulated on the complex’s courtyard. He and other residents had voiced concerned about the soil and the construction activity next door.
Arnstein was in his apartment the day of the collapse.
“It felt like an earthquake,” he said. “And, of course, there were sirens, and fire engines, and police cars and it was chaos,” he said.