Town Talks on Storm Water Drainage
Last week’s storm dumped the amount of rain usually seen in a storm that only comes once in every 2 to 5 hundred years according to Town Manager Quinn Robertson. Rain gauges measured between 5 and 8 inches all over the town and Robertson said that could have been low due to wind that may have interfered with the gauges proper collection.
Robertson presented several facts concerning storm drainage and discussed the town’s actions towards controlling it during the August Planning Commission meeting held on Thursday August 27, 2020.
Ditches are not designed to remove water from homeowners’ properties, they are there to remove water from roadways to reduce chances of accidents and are merely designed to give rain a place to go, not to carry it away necessarily.
Even our biggest road, Colonial Ave, which is state maintained is not rated for anything more than a ten year storm.
Some of the problems stem from the fact that much of the land in the Meadows was originally farmland, it is mostly flat and only 6 feet above sea level. Flat land does not drain quickly.
Furthermore many storm water management practices strive to hold water on properties so it can be reabsorbed into the ground and eventually reach the water tables below. Too much rapid drainage results in both erosion and in reduction of the fresh water aquifers that run below the ground and supply us with naturally filtered, clean drinking water.
Another issue is that because properties in many areas of Colonial Beach are small, homeowners are filling in ditches to allow for more parking space. Some put in piping but it is not always adequate for the job. Considerations are size of pipe, material and can not withstand the stress of dirt and vehicles running over it. Collapsed pipes often occur causing a blockage for draining which affects the rest of the block prior to the blockage.
The town is trying to address these properties. Robertson said if homeowners want to put in pipes to cover ditches and make more access to their property they can come to public works and the staff will answer questions to help homeowners find the proper materials so the job is done right.
The next issue discussed was cleaning out right of ways. Robertson said some citizens perform the work and the town tries to address all right of ways on a timely basis but the town has about 52 miles of road to maintain.
Letting leaves rot in ditches causes problems. Burning results in ash that does not drain, but instead create new clogs.
Robertson said most homeowners take pride in cleaning those few feet from their property line to the road way because they use the area as part of their lawns. “If the town spends more time cleaning out branches, leaves and ashes placed there by homeowners it limits the amount of times the town can clean all right of ways”
Some residents don’t understand that the areas where ditches are is part of the town’s right of way and they plant bushes in the ditches. Robertson said some citizens are very upset when they spend good money on nice bushes which the town has to remove because they block the flow of drainage.
Robertson added that Public Works has a really efficient work order system that allows citizens to put in complaints and issues online and the system prioritizes the work for employees. If you are not familiar with how to put in a request Robertson said to call town hall and ask. (804) 224- 7181.
Robertson said the town reacts to emergencies, however there is a lot of proactive work going on behind the scenes to help deal with the storm drainage. For example the town has purchased a jet truck that has been very helpful and has saved a lot of work hours.
The boardwalk project where the statues are placed is not only there for beautification but the work that was performed underground cost 5 times more than what is above ground according to Robertson. During the recent Colonial Ave Plaza project, the town had the opportunity to improve infrastructure there which is a major area for the town’s storm drainage leading to the river.
From there Robertson reminded the citizens that Colonial Beach is mostly flat and informed the citizens that the town has been getting 3-D images to form a map that properly defines the elevations which are no more than a few meters. He then went on to explain how the town is using this information to plan out strategies for future projects to maximize drainage while still retaining some water to add to the water table below.
The town is not sitting idly by and letting infrastructure problems build up. They are constantly moving forward to try to fix old problems and anticipate new ones. However since the idea of storm drainage and sewer repairs are not a “sexy” topic as Robertson put it, many citizens don’t keep up with these improvements and when we have storms like we did last week then people sit up and take notice.
Lastly Robertson said the town is trying to find funding that will pay for these improvements without charging the citizens more taxes.
The presentation lasts roughly 30 minutes after which the staff took questions.