Although the cleanliness of our local waterways has improved significantly over the past few decades, there is still a lot to be done. In 2017, Virginia passed law requiring that jurisdictions flowing into Chesapeake Bay significantly reduce pollution from runoff into the bay by 2025.
Alexandria is one of hundreds of cities across the country with a combined sewer system, and the RiverRenew project aims to significantly reduce the pollution that such a system can cause. The Environmental Protection Agency explains it this way:
“Mixed water sewers are channels that are supposed to collect rainwater, domestic sewage and industrial sewage in a pipe. Mixed water systems usually transport all of their wastewater to a sewage treatment plant, where it is cleaned and then discharged into a body of water. In the event of heavy rain or snowmelt, however, the amount of wastewater in a mixed sewer system can increase the capacity of the sewer network or excess wastewater directly into nearby streams, rivers or other bodies of water. “
The project AlexRenew is now undertaking means reducing the millions of liters of rainwater mixed with sewage that sometimes pollutes Alexandria’s waterways through four drains in the city. These dropouts are at the east end of Pendleton Street, the south end of Royal Street, and two on Hooffs Run.
In 2018, the City of Alexandria transferred ownership of the four Outfalls and the RiverRenew project to AlexRenew. Since then, AlexRenew has been preparing for a $ 615 million project that includes tunnels and new pumping stations.
One of the most recent and most visible preparations for the project was the Demolition of the Robinson Terminal North last November.
At a public meeting on February 25, AlexRenew shared more details about RiverRenew – what it is and what impact it will have on the city. According to the presentation, the tunnel project consists of the following components:
- a 2 mile long, 12 foot wide waterfront tunnel about 30 feet underground;
- Diversion systems to divert 130 million gallons of mixed sewage into the tunnel system;
- a three-and-a-half-foot-long, six-foot-wide Hooffs Run Interceptor;
- Pumping stations in two large shafts;
- Superstructure to accommodate the pumping station equipment.
The Waterfront Tunnel will run along the Potomac River from exit one at the end of Pendleton Street to exit two at the end of Royal Street, where it will continue to the Alex Renew sewage treatment plant in the Eisenhower area. It is being built with a special German tunnel boring machine and, with the exception of the diversion systems at Robinson’s Landing North and the end of Royal Street, causes only very minor surface disruptions.
The Hooffs Run Interceptor will be an open pipeline that runs from Duke Street to Eisenhower Circle. It will run alongside the current Hooffs Run waterway.
AlexRenew has received a $ 25 million grant for the project and is seeking additional funding from the Virginia General Assembly to help minimize the impact of the fees on residents. The project also received low-interest loans under the EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (WIFIA) Act and the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund (VCWRLF).
A frequent question from the public has been whether the RiverRenew project will help with rainwater flooding, particularly along Union Street. RiverRenew Program Advisor Justin Carl was quick to make it clear that RiverRenew is a Water Quality Project, not an A. Rainwater management project.
AlexRenew was also introduced Traylor–Shea, the design-build team for the RiverRenew project. They are supported by Jacobs Engineering and Corman Kokosing Construction Co. Traylor and Jacobs have a long history of working together, including on site at the Blue Plains Tunnel in Washington, DC With Traylor based in Alexandria and Shea, Washington DC, more than 90 percent of its work is done by local firms.
“It’s not often that you get to work on a project in your hometown,” said Mike Krulc, Traylor Shea project manager for the tunnel project. Krulc is a resident of the Rosemont area and has an office on King Street. Many of the other project leaders shared their own connections with the region and their enthusiasm for involving the public in the project with the ultimate goal of creating clean water for all.
AlexRenew spoke about the four construction staging areas created as part of the project. One is on the site of the former Robinson Landing North. Another is at the end of Royal Street near Jones Point Park. Several trees were cut down on Royal Street this winter. The third staging area is around the AlexRenew facility and far away from Holland Lane. Finally, the area around Hooffs Run is also a collection area that also required some tree felling.
Each construction site area is fenced in, secured and monitored for air quality in order to minimize the impact on residents. The construction times are from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. These times will be adjusted on Royal Street grounds to allow drop-off / pick-up at St. Mary’s School.
Once the RiverRenew project is complete, all sites will be restored and replanted. The project is expected to have a significant positive impact on the city.
“RiverRenew will improve water quality, improve public spaces and connect the community with our waterways,” said AlexRenew’s presentation.
Learn more and watch a recording of the meeting here.
Also take a look at our 2019 interview with AlexRenew CEO Karen Pallansch here.