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Government and People
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA WATER AND SEWER AUTHORITY
5000 OVERLOOK AVENUE, S. W., WASHINGTON, D. C. 20032
OFFICE OF THE GENERAL MANAGER
August 4, 2009
Neil 0. Albert, City Administrator
Dear Mr. Albert:
I appreciate your leadership in ensuring that the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) and the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services (Fire and EMS) coordinate through your office the review of the July 29, 2009 fire emergency at 3030 Chain Bridge Road, NW.
The WASA Command Center received a call from Fire and EMS with notification of a two alarm fire on Chain Bridge Road at 8:35 p.m. Consistent with standard procedure, a WASA investigation crew was dispatched to the scene at 8:40 p.m. and arrived on the scene at 9:00 p.m. to provide operational assistance as requested by Fire and EMS. The crew reported that only 8-inch mains were available in the immediate area and proceeded to check the position of valves in the immediate area to ensure optimum operation of the distribution system in that location. Fire and EMS also contacted WASA Department of Water Services Manager David Wall at 8:37 p.m. The WASA Command Center contacted the Acting Director of WASA Department of Water Services Curtis Cochrane at 8:41 p.m. When Wall arrived on the scene at 9:15, he was asked by Fire and EMS personnel to provide the location of larger mains. A 30-inch main was identified approximately 3,000 feet from the incident, and a 16-inch main was identified approximately 900 feet from the incident.
This incident appears to be almost identical to the circumstances that occurred with the Adams Mill Road fire in 2007, the distribution system did provide sufficient flow to the area, but it was necessary to tap the hydrants on more than one small (6-inch or 8-inch) water main in order to do so. In order to have secured and maintained adequate fire flows at the Adams Mill Road fire, it would have been necessary:
Availability of Fire Flow on July 29, 2009
Preliminary reviews on July 30, 2009, indicated that sufficient fire flows were available. This conclusion is based upon the hydraulic model used to support operation of the District's water distribution system and confirmed by the flow tests conducted by WASA crews subsequent to the f re at 303 0 Chain Bridge Road. This data confirms that the distribution system made available a fire flow of 1,000 gallons per minute within a radius 1,000 feet from the fire emergency. I understand that the flow tests conducted by an independent third party under contract with Fire and EMS on Sunday August 2, 2009 confirmed the availability of adequate fire flows for fire suppression.
Customer Complaints Water Pressure Concerns and Out of Service Fire Hydrants
It is important to note that there is significant confusion in the public mind regarding customer "water pressure complaints" and their relationship to the availability of fire flows from public hydrants that Fire and EMS requires in a fire emergency. Only in very unusual instances will a customer complaint be an indicator of an unidentified and dangerous systemic pressure problem that will impact flow availability to fight a fire because the hydraulic variation in the distribution system (static pressure) is fairly constant. In general, customer low pressure complaints are not related to fire flow availability, as you will note from the enclosed data.
Fire and EMS conducts hydrant inspections twice annually, and completed its first round of the 2009 inspections a few months ago. The single out-of-service hydrant on Chain Bridge Road was clearly marked and was immediately identifiable by firefighters when they arrived in the vicinity of 3030 Chain Bridge Road (the status of the hydrant was also available to Fire and EMS personnel in advance of the alarm using the Google Earth application WASA developed to enhance the exchange of information between the two agencies.) Hydrant status had no impact on the response to the fire emergency at 3030 Chain Bridge Road.
Memorandum of Understanding between WASA and Fire and EMS
WASA and Fire and EMS have implemented a very thorough and ongoing program of public fire hydrant inspections, maintenance and repair. The WASA Board of Directors also approved a $25 million 5-year Fire Hydrant Upgrade Program which will result in 3,400 upgraded hydrants. Phase Two of the Upgrade Program, an additional $29.5 million, will be submitted to the Board of Directors as part of the 201.0 WASA budget proposal.
To date, WASA has replaced approximately 3,200 hydrants, well in excess of the program goal of 540 replacements each year. We have also flow tested almost 2,400 hydrants to date (upgraded hydrants are flow tested and marked with color-coded bands indicating flow availability.) You will note from the enclosed data that we have achieved significant milestones, including:
As your staff requested, we have provided to your office a substantial body of information that is relevant to your review of this matter. I have enclosed this information for your review.
In summary, it is alleged that the following three issues have been identified as having impeded the ability of Fire and EMS to fight the fire at 3030 Chain Bridge Road:
In fact, not one of these distribution system performance issues has been shown to be deficient with regard to the availability water supply to Fire and EMS to suppress the fire in this emergency.
Again, thank you and Mayor Fenty for your leadership and support in ensuring that the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) and the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services (Fire and EMS) coordinate through your office a thorough and objective review of the July 29, 2009 fire emergency at 3030 Chain Bridge Road, NW.
Avis Marie Russell Interim
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA WATER AND SEWER AUTHORITY
August 5, 2009
Mr. Neil O. Albert, City Administrator
Dear Mr. Albert:
Thank you for providing the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) the opportunity to participate in the CapStat meeting with you on yesterday evening and again this morning with you and the Mayor.
As requested, attached is WASA's response to the preliminary recommendations of the Office of the City Administrator (OCA). We have also provided recommendations to improve service to our customers and the residents of the District of Columbia.
We agree that we should work together to find solutions and improve communication and operational assistance between WASA and the Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS). I recognize that the recommendations are preliminary but as presented, all of the recommendations state actions that should be taken by WASA. There is not one recommendation directed to FEMS. I think that to present the recommendations in this manner implies that only WASA needs to act and this is inconsistent with the findings and the discussions we have had over the last several days.
I hope your team will take WASA's letter to you of August 4, 2009, recommendations and comments into consideration as you prepare the final report. WASA is willing to continue to provide assistance to FEMS in its efforts to excel in providing firefighting services. Thus far WASA has spent over $32 million dollars on behalf of the District of Columbia for tasks associated with the MOU. Pursuant to Section 3.13 of the MOU the District is responsible for these costs. If FEMS and/or the District would like to have tasks completed under the MOU more expeditiously and/or change the tasks to be accomplished, we can advise you of the cost so that you can budget for these expenditures.
In the meantime, we all have to work with the resources we currently have at our disposal. Therefore, we renew our offer to FEMS to provide training to FEMS in understanding the water distribution system and in using the counter maps that have been provided.
The staff of OCA and Capstat has worked cooperatively with WASA over the last few days. Working collaboratively is essential to providing first class service to our customers and your constituents.
Avis Marie Russell
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