- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2003

Tuesday’s torrential rainstorm on the heels of Hurricane Isabel did more than cause Bea Pody’s basement to flood with sewage. It also drained her patience with Potomac Electric Power Co.

Until yesterday morning, Mrs. Pody, 43, and her neighbors on Dangerfield Road in Clinton, had been without power since Isabel blew through more than 10 days ago. But the time it took for Pepco to repair the lines isn’t what has Mrs. Pody steamed, she said.

“Being without lights for a few days, that’s no big deal,” Mrs. Pody said. “But we were without running water and toilets for more than a week, and the repair of our lines [yesterday] took all of 15 minutes. All Pepco had to do was show up. But they lied and said, ‘We’ve already been out and assessed you.’ They were never here.”

Mrs. Pody’s house relies on a well and septic system that were idled in the power outage. Rain caused her septic system to back up, then the tub and toilet in the basement bathroom began to flood with sewage, spilling out onto the bathroom floor and seeping into a small area of the basement carpet.

The mess could have been avoided, Mrs. Pody said, had Pepco properly prioritized the reported outages.

“My daughter’s room is just a few feet down the hall from the bathroom,” said Mrs. Pody, who along with her husband, Steve, 43, woke up at 5:30 a.m. and hauled buckets of sewage outside in pouring rain. “Pepco told us they were repairing lines by order of highest priority. We’ve got sewage flooding our basement, and that’s not a priority?”

About 11 a.m. yesterday, power in the Pody home was restored.

“If [Prince George’s County officials] were to come out and see layers of sewage in my house … they would condemn my house and make us evacuate. But when I call them, they tell me it’s not their problem and to call Pepco. I loathe the county officials for not caring.”

Pepco, which serves 720,000 in the Washington area, said two-thirds of its customers — about 570,000 — were without power immediately after Isabel swept through the area Sept. 18.

Pepco had promised that all remaining lines would be restored by midnight Friday, but as of 6 p.m. yesterday, there were still about 2,500 reported outages.

Dominion Virginia Power, which has nearly 750,000 customers in the Northern Virginia area, restored power to all but 2,309 of those customers as of yesterday. Baltimore Gas & Electric announced Friday that it had wrapped up its restoration efforts, as all 650,000 reported outages from Isabel have been repaired.

Pepco officials said the storm damage was the most extensive the company has faced and said that crews did a remarkable job in accomplishing what they did. Pepco CEO and Chairman John Derrick Jr. had told WTOP Radio that anyone without power as of midnight Friday could call him directly at his office, 202/872-2795.

“The midnight deadline came and went, so we called the number,” Mrs. Pody said. “All they did was ask if we still were without power. We don’t call Pepco to whine. We call them for answers.”



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