Piscataway Drive remains closed after partial road collapse

FORT WASHINGTON, Md. — Geologists are working to determine whether some evacuated homes in Fort Washington are in danger of sliding off their foundations.

Prince George’s County officials say they have no idea, at this point, when evacuated residents will be allowed back into their homes.

A partial road collapse and water line break Friday on Piscataway Drive near the Potomac River were the first indications a greater problem could be developing.

“It’s not a landslide. It’s a slope failure,” says Prince George’s County spokesman Scott Peterson.

“A landslide happens quickly. A slope failure is a very gradual deterioration of that hill,” he says.

The strip of land that is collapsing is about 1,500 feet long, says Darrell Mobley, director of Prince George’s County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation.

Mobley says it will take officials at least two weeks to determine an appropriate short-term solution.

Prince George’s County inspectors Monday ordered mandatory evacuations of 28 structures in all. Five homes and a vacant building owned by the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission have been deemed “unsafe” until the stability of the ground can be evaluated.

Later Tuesday, Prince George’s County officials said they’ve noticed more slope deterioration.

WSSC has installed a temporary fire hydrant in the community so water is at the ready in case of an emergency.

Meanwhile, soil tests continue in an effort to figure out why the slope failure happened and what can be done to fix it.

Twenty two evacuated homes are said to be ‘”unfit” because there’s no water or sewage, and water to nearby fire hydrants is turned off.

Prince George’s County Family Services and the Red Cross are working closely with approximately 45 residents to help them with immediate needs and to sort through insurance issues. Some area hotels are offering evacuees discounted rates.

Piscataway Drive in the Piscataway Hills neighborhood is in a heavily forested area with many ravines and gullies leading toward the Potomac River and Piscataway National Park.

After the stability of ground under at-risk homes is evaluated and decisions made about how to resolve potential issues, then the question arises about who will be pay for everything.

“The slope is owned by this community association,” says Peterson.

The county does not own the land on the potentially failing slope.

“We want to get these folks back in their homes as soon as possible. That’s the bottom line,” says Peterson.

As the affected part of Piscataway Drive closer to the river is evaluated and addressed, the entire length of the road remains closed to everyone except residents. That creates issues for a local landscaping crew that has clients in the restricted area.

“It’s economic,” says crew supervisor Mike Price II. “That’s money out of my pocket.”

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WTOP’s Michelle Basch and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on WTOP Facebook page.

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