Bill aims to speed up Alexandria’s sewage cleanup

RICHMOND — Alexandria would be forced to significantly accelerate the end of raw sewage flowing into the Potomac River under a bill agreed to by the General Assembly.

As part of its final day of this year’s session, the state Senate votes Saturday on a bill that requires the cleanup of Alexandria’s sewer outflows to begin by summer 2023 and be complete by summer 2025. It was agreed to in a 60-35 vote Friday by the House of Delegates.

But several House Democrats said those deadlines would be impossible to meet.

“It’s really just gross, and so we need to go ahead and take care of that, but I also think we have a responsibility in this body to make sure that what we’re asking is reasonable,” said Del. David Bulova, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 37th District.

He praised the original House bill sponsored by Del. Scott Lingamfelter that would have required just a start by 2024.

“It’s not a good idea to see raw sewage in the Potomac River,” said Lingamfelter, a Republican representing Virginia’s 31st District.

But the $370 million project could take more than a decade, Bulova said. “This doesn’t work the way it’s written right now,” he said. “They’re already in the process of raising their sewer rates by 30 percent this year, and have a plan for raising them by 10 percent each year for the next 10 years,” he added.

Del. Mark Sickles, whose company builds similar structures, said a 3.5-mile tunnel in Cleveland took four years just for construction — in addition to the years spent on studies, federal environmental review and public feedback.

“This conference report is not real,” said Sickles, a Democrat representing the 43rd District. “It just can’t be done on this schedule. Would love to wave a magic wand, but these things are very, very complicated. Very expensive.”

The City of Alexandria, Sickles said, is already working to address three of its four sewer outfalls.

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