Tunnel-boring machine will help complete Anacostia River tunnel system

WASHINGTON — A major improvement is being seen in the Anacostia River, and more improvement is coming, according to DC Water.

On Thursday, leaders christened a tunnel-boring machine that will dig a 5-mile path from RFK Stadium to R Street to help complete the Anacostia River Tunnel System.

As a result of D.C.’s combined sewer system — which moves both sanitary waste and stormwater — the system has for years reached capacity when it rains, causing the sewage mixture to overflow into waterways. DC Water said the new tunnels increase the capacity of the combined sewer system and transport the mixture to a wastewater treatment plant.

One portion of the tunnel system was just put into service in March. DC Water said over the span of two and half months, that tunnel captured over 1.4 billion gallons of sewage and some 100 tons of trash that would have normally gone into the Anacostia.

Once completed in 2023, the entire 13-mile tunnel system is expected to cut sewage overflows by 98 percent while also significantly reducing flooding in Northeast D.C.

About one-third of the District has a combined sewer system.

The work is part of the larger Clean Rivers Project, a $2.7-billion program to improve the water quality of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek. The tunnel-boring machine was named for Christopher Allen, the assistant director for the Clean Rivers Project, who passed away last year.

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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