Thursday, August 10, 2006

DC Utility Gave Squatters Free Water for 22 Years, Wants Libya to Pay

The Washington Times reports:

The Libyan government took 25 years to repair diplomatic ties with the United States to be able to reopen an embassy in the District, but it can't because the District's utilities authority refuses to turn on water service.

At issue is more than $27,000 in outstanding water and sewer bills for the property where the Libyan government is trying to reopen its embassy on U.S. soil for the first time since 1981.

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) has filed liens and shut off sewer and water service for the property, located at 2201 Wyoming Ave. NW.

The dispute prompted Libya last week to file a lawsuit against WASA in federal court in the District. The suit demands that water and sewer service be turned on and that WASA pay $1 million in damages.


In its lawsuit, Libya says it hasn't occupied the Wyoming Avenue property since 1981, when the United States cut diplomatic ties with the country and shut its embassy.


During the years Libya had no embassy in the District, the United Arab Emirates took control of the property. For several years, "squatters" stayed there without permission from Libya or the United Arab Emirates, the suit says.

The United Arab Emirates evicted the squatters in 2003 and ordered water and sewer service to be shut off, the suit says.

No explanation of why WASA let unpaid bills reach $27,000 over a period of 22 years without shutting off service.


The Washington Times adds:

The Libyan government has settled a federal lawsuit with the District's water authority in a dispute involving more than $27,000 in outstanding bills.

The settlement allows Libyan officials to move ahead with plans to open an embassy in Northwest.


The lawsuit, which accused WASA of violating a provision of the Vienna Convention, sought $1 million and the immediate restoration of water and sewer service.


WASA spokeswoman Michele Quander-Collins said the settlement calls for the Libyan government to pay "a nominal fee" that is significantly less than the $27,710 in outstanding bills.

Miss Quander-Collins said WASA agreed to the deal late Tuesday after meeting with attorneys for the Libyan government who provided information about "mitigating factors."


D.C. court records show that the United Arab Emirates assigned a driver to live at the property to keep it from being continually vandalized, but the driver rented out rooms without permission from Libya or the United Arab Emirates.

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