Tonight the Citizens Association of Georgetown held its April meeting and the subject of the evening was WASA. WASA Engineering and Technical Services Director David McLaughlin gave the audience a detailed breakdown of all the big projects the agency is planning for the next decade or so, both citywide and in Georgetown-proper. GM knows this sounds like dreadfully boring information, but it’s actually quite fascinating how many huge projects there are in the works. Check out some of them after the jump:
Rock Creek Sewer Separation Project
This is the project GM discussed a little while back which will involve massive traffic headaches for Q St. between Dumbarton Bridge and 27th St. Essentially what is planned is a project to separate out home sewage (“sanitary sewage”, a euphemism if GM’s ever seen one) from street drain sewage. As it is, these two type of sewage are mixed together in our ancient pipes and all of it is sent to the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant. This is bad for at least two reasons. Firstly, it’s wasteful to ship storm sewer water to Blue Plains to be processed. Secondly, since the pipes get easily overloaded, they back up often and overflow (septic sewage and all) right into the Potomac, Anacostia and Rock Creek.
To fix this, WASA has identified several locations where backups cause the most sewage run-off. A drainpipe below the Dumbarton Bridge is one of them. Therefore they need to basically install two new sewer systems below Q St (a new one, and a replacement for the old one since it will probably be damaged beyond repair in the process).
As discussed before, this will cause intense traffic nightmares on Q St. GM is particularly sensitive to this since he’s getting married at the Dumbarton House in early May and he would be very disappointed if there’s a ton of construction going on during his vows. Luckily for him, McLaughlin confirmed tonight that construction probably won’t start until late summer. He did not, however, say which of the traffic pattern options they will use.
Potomac Interceptor Long-Term Odor Abatement Program
You just couldn’t make up a name as silly as that if you tried. Apparently there is one giant pipe that runs 50 miles from the Potomac Pump Station in East Potomac Park to Dulles. That pipe is full of sewage that gets a little “ripe” on its voyage. To prevent explosions, there are a series of little huts along the route that vent out the offending gases. Not surprisingly the residents near said vents are not terribly excited about these discharges. WASA is addressing this by installing odor scrubbers in these huts. In addition, they’re building several new venting facilities along the route, including one down by Fletcher’s Boathouse. They should be commended for designing buildings that will blend in with their historic surroundings:
Subway Tunnel Comes to Georgetown Finally! (It just won’t actually be for subways)
As part of the long term solution to the combined sewage problem discussed above, WASA is planning to build several gigantic tunnels along the Anacostia and the Potomac. These tunnels will be “subway” sized and will serve, essentially, as overflow reservoirs. When it rains too much, the pipes will be filled with the excess (instead of just dumping it into the rivers as we do know). It will sit there until the strain is reduced and the sewage can be fed back into the main system and processed. Apparently one of these giant pipes is planned to be dug underneath Georgetown from Key Bridge going one mile eastward. A citizen expressed concern about the effects this project will have on the residents and suggested the dirt be carried out by barge rather than truck. McLaughlin agreed that that was a good idea.
Either by barge or by truck, the dirt won’t be moved anytime soon: the designing of the tunnel won’t begin until 2019.
GM just hopes that this project doesn’t preclude the eventual possibility of a split Blue line metro stop in Georgetown. It would seem that WMATA and WASA are talking about the same dirt; maybe they can join forces and kill two birds with one stone. Or barge. Or whatever.
Odds and Ends:
- McLaughlin explained the color bands on the water hydrants: Blue means it’s a high-flow hydrant; red means it’s low-flow; yellow and orange are in between; and white means it hasn’t been tested.
- The Blue Plains sewage treatment plant is the largest of its kind in the entire world. There’s some terrible joke about Washington and its sewage somewhere in that factoid…
- There are 1300 miles of pipes under WASA’s control; the average age of the pipes is 74 years.