Alexandria looks to bolster projects to tackle sewer, stormwater flooding

Months after Alexandria, Virginia, broke ground on an expensive underground tunnel project to prevent millions of gallons of sewage from flowing into the Potomac River during heavy rains, the city is looking at other projects to help tackle the problem.

And the clock is ticking.

In 2017, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law requiring the city of Alexandria to fix or replace its antiquated combined sewer system by July 1, 2025.

In Alexandria’s combined sewer system, a single pipe carrying rainwater and sewage overflows into the Potomac River, Hunting Creek and Hooffs Run during heavy rains.

In September, ground was broken on the RiverRenew Tunnel Project — a $454.4 million undertaking aimed to prevent more than 120 million gallons of combined sewage from polluting local waterways each year.

Alexandria’s new city manager, Jim Parajon, has proposed a budget that would speed up funding for several projects to deal with the ongoing flooding problems in several flood-prone, low-lying areas.

One of the largest expenditures would be to design and built two-large-scale capital projects to address capacity and flooding issues in the Four Mile Run Watershed at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and East Glebe Road, and Ashby Street at East Glebe, north of Del Ray.

“The City has been experiencing widespread flooding due to the increase in high intensity precipitation events associated with Climate Change and its inherent low-lying nature adjacent to the Potomac,” according to the project description.

Other projects would speed up funding to provide closed-circuit television inspection of the city sewer systems, with a focus on sewer systems in stream areas.

The sanitary sewer determined most at-risk crosses Holmes Run just upstream of Interstate 395. The pipe is exposed within the stream as the concrete armoring has become broken and cracked. The city plans to replace the cracked pipe.

The proposed budget would also fund increasing capacity of the current sewer system in areas that are most seriously affected during flooding.

Another long-term project would address flooding issues associated with the Hooffs Run Culvert by creating a bypass for Timber Branch in a new culvert to remove that flow from the existing Hooffs Run Culvert.

“During high intensity storm events, the drainage network becomes over capacity and unable to accommodate heavy discharge from multiple upstream systems in tandem, that creates flooding impacts,” according to the project description.

Taxpayers would help foot the bill for the proposed improvements. Parajon’s proposed budget would raise the stormwater utility fee by $14, to $294 for most single-family homes.

Parajon will present his proposed budget to the public, virtually, Thursday evening.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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