Home | Association | Information | Board Meetings | Board Minutes & Homeowner Docs | Projects | Satellite View | Site Map | Plat Map | Trash | Vendors | By Car | By Metro | Street Parking | Garages | Neighborhood Development | Government & Elections | Wreaths | 40th Anniversary | Headlines & News

History of Alexandria | City Planning | Neighborhood Development | Neighborhood Parks | Watergate Projects

 

 

New Development

Overview
Giant/ABC Site
2nd Street Green Project
Power Plant Site
Old Colony Inn Site
National Airport North
Metro Bus Barn Site
Travel Lodge Motel Site
The Towns at 1333
Powhatan Potomac Yard
Mount Vernon Trail
Robinson Terminal North
Robinson Terminal South
Old Dominion Boat Club
The Thornton
Hoffman Town Center
Landmark Mall
Potomac Yard Metro
Alexandria Sewer
Craddock/Smoot Lumber
Potomac Yard

Redevelopment

Montgomery Street
Crowne Plaza
Waterfront Center
Holiday Inn
Beach Drive

Park Development

Montgomery Park
Windmill Hill Park
Jones Point Park
Potomac Yard Park

Completed Projects

National Airport South
Canal Center Plaza

Alexandria Sewer System

The City of Alexandria operates two separate sewer systems – an older legacy system and a newer more efficient system.

The older system, dating back to the early 1800s, is a combined sewer that carries both waste water from homes and businesses as well as storm water runoff from streets, sidewalks, roofs and parking lots in a single pipe system to Alexandria Renew Enterprises’ water treatment facility, which is located between Eisenhower Avenue and the Capital Beltway to the immediate west of Four Mile Run (near the Whole Foods on Duke Street).  The combined sewer predominantly serves the historic neighborhoods of Old Town, including Old Town North.  Watergate of Alexandria is on the older combined sewer.

The newer system is a dual pipe system in which one pipe carries waste water to the Alexandria Renew facility for treatment, and another pipe carries storm water runoff to local waterways with little or no treatment.  This sewer serves recently redeveloped areas of Old Town (say the last 20 years or so) and areas of Alexandria that lie well outside of the historic district.  The more recent developments around us are all on the newer dedicated sewer, as they are not allowed on the older system.

Alexandria Renew (see satellite photo bottom right) operates a state-of-the-art facility that uses filters and bacterial agents rather than chemicals to treat the waste water.  Processing removes trash, grit, sediment, oils, grease, nitrogen, phosphorus and pathogens from the water.  After treatment, the reclaimed clean water is released into Hunting Creek, which flows into the Potomac River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

When heavy rain falls on our city (about 60-70 times in an average year), the combined sewer is easily overwhelmed by the increased water volume (90 percent storm water and 10 percent raw sewage) flowing through the pipes to the water treatment facility.  Because the water treatment facility is unable to process large amounts of storm water, much of it is diverted untreated into local waterways through four sewer outfalls. 

One outfall sends effluent directly into Oronoco Bay (see satellite photo below left) near the foot of Pendleton Street (this is referred to as outfall 1), and the other three outfalls dump the overflow into Hunting Creek or its tributary Hooff’s Run (referred to as outfalls 2-4).  Untreated nitrogen and phosphorus can produce algae blooms in local watersheds, which create “dead zones” that starve aquatic life of oxygen.  Untreated pathogens can lead to infections, disease and undesirable mutations.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) strictly limits the amount of untreated water that can be released into state-controlled waterways and their tributaries, and requires local governments like Alexandria to develop a long-term plan for limiting and mitigating such releases. (Regrettably, a discussion of this regulatory pas de deux is regrettably beyond the scope of this summary.)

VDEQ is now requiring the city to reduce the amount of untreated effluent that it releases during heavy rain storms from outfalls 2-4 (into small waterways), but not outfall 1 (into a large river).  In response, the city is proposing to construct a 3-million gallon storage tank and 10-foot diameter tunnels under North Royal Street that would temporarily hold the excess effluent (that is today discharged into Hunting Creek and Hooff’s Run) until the treatment plant is able to process it in the ordinary course.

The obvious alternative, moving older buildings to the newer sewer system, is not practical as the cost would be exorbitant for both the city and individual homeowners, and such a project would entail tearing up the streets and sidewalks of Old Town to lay new pipes and connectors.  The city believes that its plan will reduce the number of outflows to a few per year.

   

At a North Old Town Independent Citizens' Association (NOTICe) meeting held on October 1, 2016, Mark Levine, our state delegate to the Virginia General Assembly, told neighborhood residents that Alexandria officials reluctantly informed him that the estimated cost to build the planned storage tanks and the related diversion pipes for outfalls 2-4 is roughly $100 million.  Double that cost if the city opts to deal with outfall 1 as well. 

In late November 2016, the City Council announced that the projected cost to address outfalls 2-4 would be $188 million, and the cost to address outfall 1 would be $150 million.  In the city's proposed FY 2018 budget, the expected cost to fix all four outfalls rises to $400 million.  In ordinary years, the city's annual capital budget is $120-$150 million.

The new storage tanks and tunnels will not eliminate all releases of untreated effluent during heavy rainstorms, but it should reduce the frequency of these events and the volume of discharged water. 

The city is taking complementary measures to divert storm water runoff away from the combined sewer system altogether.  In this regard, a green infrastructure demonstration project is being considered for Second Street adjacent to Watergate.

 

These initiatives, developed under a new-for-2016 Green Infrastructure Strategy, seek to reduce "stormwater runoff volumes, peak flows, and/or pollutant loads" at the source, utilizing "infiltration, evapotranspiration, and capture" in combination with steps to reduce overflows from the combined sewer system.  The simplest of these measures would create new or expanded planted areas -- biogardens -- to increase the retention and absorption of rain water.

To accomplish these steps, Alexandria has established an Ad Hoc Combined Sewer System Plan Stakeholder Group to assist city staff in drafting an update to its Long Term Control Plan for the combined sewer system.  Click here for details.

On February 25, 2017, the final day of its 2017 regular legislative session, the Virginia General Assembly required Alexandria to start construction to upgrade all four of its sewer outfalls by 2023, and complete those upgrades by 2025 (SB 898).  The legislature previously threatened to cut-off all state funding to the city if it did not complete the repairs by 2020. 

In late March 2017, Governor Terry McAuliffe attempted unsuccessfully to get the General Assembly to push the deadline back to 2027, but the legislature rejected the Governor's recommended modification in early April 2017 and the Governor eventually signed the bill into law on April 26, 2017.

The city hopes the state will pay for some of the $400 million cost, but many of the Republican legislators who control the General Assembly have publicly stated that Democrat-dominated Alexandria is rich enough to pay for the work on its own.  This is the sad state of partisan and divisive politics in the Commonwealth today.

Meanwhile, Alexandria is proposing to raise the city sanitary sewer fee dramatically in the years ahead, starting with a 30 percent increase starting in FY 2018, to pay for the mandated sewer upgrades.

 

Follow us on Twitter for current updates

This website is powered by Formal Constructs. All original content Copyright © 2002-2018 Formal Constructs. All rights reserved.
Duplication or re-use of any of these pages in any form without permission of the owner is strictly prohibited.