Despite landslide and warnings, homeowners go home

FORT WASHINGTON, Md. (WUSA9) -- As the ground beneath their homes continues to move, the future for 28 Maryland homeowners is as uncertain as the ground.

They still don't know how or when a slow moving landslide on Piscataway Drive in Fort Washington will be stabilized and how it will be paid for, although, Prince George's County officials said it is possible to sure up the slope.

Faced with the possibility of being displaced from their houses for months some residents could no longer wait.

"Walking back into my own house, the front door of my own house was kind of a relief," said Brad Bartee, a homeowner who has been displaced with his wife and three young children.

Twenty-two of the homeowners are allowed to return home, although Prince George's County still insists the houses on Piscataway Drive are unfit to live in. The street has been shut down since late April as county crews work on failing infrastructure and geologists and engineers work on the sliding slope.

"The road is closed, it's a one-way road and the county would have trouble getting to them so that's why we're very concerned about their safety," said Scott Peterson with Prince George's County.

"We're a month out. People are tired of living from hotel to hotel. Insurance is out. FEMA is out. There is no Red Cross anymore and we have no answers. So, people are coming back," said Dawn Taylor, another Piscataway Drive resident.

Some homeowners said they can't see the risks as their homes look and feel safe.

"They haven't told us what makes it unsafe," said Maureen Bartee.

What the county has said is that the, besides the few houses that are flat-out unsafe to live in, the other two dozen houses are unfit to live in because power and water were shut off in the aftermath of the ground movement.

"Now power is restored and they tell us the sewer lines are fine. The only thing stopping us from going to our homes is water. Only since we said we really need to start moving back into our homes did they start saying it's unsafe," said Maureen Bartee.

After pressure from homeowners, temporary water service is now available. Friday morning, WSSC began putting down temporary water piping and, upon request, homeowners can have their homes connected to the lines.

Jerry Irvine, WSSC spokesman, said they have been waiting on orders from the county.

"We were never going to hook up water until the county said we're prepared to go forward on this," said Irvine.

Now that temporary piping has been assembled, the pipes have to be flushed and the quality of the water has to be tested before it's given the green light to flow into homes. It's a process that could take up to four days, but will likely be sooner.

Residents are mixed on how Prince George's County has handled this ordeal.

"I think the people working here everyday have been amazing. I think once you get to a certain level, it's very difficult to get a straight answer," explained Taylor, distinguishing between the crews working on the ground, police officers protecting their empty homes and the county officials making decisions about how to handle the landslide and everything it touches.

The next answer residents want is to know who is paying for the project that will sure up the slope that continues to move. Residents certainly do not want to foot that bill too.

"They're not paying for us to stay anywhere, we're paying for [hotels] out of our own pockets," said Maureen Bartee, whose family continues to pay a mortgage on the home they have not been able to live in.

"We just want to get back to our lives," said Taylor.


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