- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2001

A day after President Bush declared Washington a disaster area, D.C. residents began applying for federal assistance yesterday.
By midday, more than 1,000 calls had been received on a toll-free line established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. About 100 FEMA inspectors are expected to spend the next few weeks inspecting homes and businesses damaged by flooding, raw sewage and mudslides.
"The toll-free number is the only way to start the process," said FEMA spokesman Phil Linderking.
Within an hour of receiving a federal disaster declaration, D.C. officials opened a flood-relief coordinating center in the basement of a Catholic church near the Capitol. They stocked the facility with relief supplies.
Late yesterday, ExxonMobil Corp. announced it was contributing $10,000 to the American Red Cross to help flood victims. The company has its refining and marketing headquarters in Fairfax.
"We've got a great deal of food, we've got lots of clothing," said Craig Kirby, deputy director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency.
Flash flooding Aug. 10-12 inundated the city's 130 year-old-sewer system. That left widespread damage in many neighborhoods. Soiled mattresses, rolls of wet flooring materials and ruined household items lined many streets.
Under normal conditions, storm water and wastewater are commingled and ultimately allowed to flow through the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant. Although the system can handle 300 million gallons a day, about 3 billion gallons of raw sewage is allowed to flow into the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, primarily during heavy rains.
Heavy rains overwhelmed the system. The murky mix gushed from manhole covers and grates and flowed down city streets into homes. It also bubbled out of floor drains, toilets and sinks in an estimated 3,800 homes.
"We need to start pulling out the debris out of the homes of seniors and residents," said Cleopatra Jones, an Advisory Neighborhood commissioner.
Members of that group have been walking door to door to identify property owners incapable of moving the soiled materials.
While cleanup efforts have been under way since Monday, city officials hope between 250 and 1,000 volunteers commit to working several hours today.
"The mask, the gloves, the boots and the training are ready," said Leslie Whitlow, the city's coordinator of volunteers. "We are doing some assessments to determine which areas are appropriate for the professionals to go in and which can be handled by volunteers."

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