Monday, July 29, 2019

Have Your Voice Heard on the Rural Crescent

Prince William County is holding a public input meeting to gather stakeholder ideas and thoughts regarding the Rural Area on July 30th 2019. The meeting will be held:

on July 30th 2019 
5:30 - 8:30 PM
At the 
Hylton Performing Arts Center
The Gregory Room
10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, VA 20109
(next to George Mason University) 

Prince William County is engaged in revising the sections of the Comprehensive Plan that pertain to the Rural Crescent and the Infrastructure and Facilities plan. It is important that your voice be heard. Under consideration is changing the boundaries of the Rural Crescent to reduce its size in response to the Rural Preservation Study prepared in 2014 for the county under the direction of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

The current set of meeting are being represented by a graphic artist to express the mood of the room. As seen in the example below from the first meeting.
from PW County
Though the loudest voices heard have been the large landowners and developers that have the most potential economic gain from a change in zoning and nature of the Rural Area. Most people residing in the Rural Area are not large landowners and their voices should be heard also. Come to the meeting and speak up.

It is often believed that when you own land you can do what you want with the land, but that is not true. We have zoning and the county has a comprehensive plan to guide land use and development decisions. Virginia law requires every governing body to adopt a comprehensive plan for the development of the lands within its jurisdiction. These plans are reviewed every five years, to ensure that they continue to be responsive to current circumstances and that the citizens of the county continue to support the goals of the plan and set the planned use and zoning.

It is essential that the "Voices" of all the residents of the Rural Area and of Prince William County should be heard before this important issue is settled; and that the needs and rights of existing Prince William residents be considered first. Do we want more development in the Rural Crescent?

There may not be adequate water at a reasonable price to supply higher density housing. In Virginia there are already problems with availability, quality and sustainability of groundwater in Virginia in places such as Fauquier County, Loudoun County and the Coastal Plain. It is unknown if the water resources in all areas of the Rural Crescent can adequately support the current allowed level of development. The Evergreen water system does NOT have adequate water capacity to recover from a leak or broken pipe. The Service Authority has determined that an additional well cannot solve the problem and a water tower is necessary to ensure water to their existing customers. That water tower will cost in excess of $1 million. We need to know what the costs will be to provide water to all future residents.

Advances in science have allowed NASA to measure groundwater depletion from space. They found that over the ten years of their study (2003-2013) all of Virginia’s groundwater aquifers were being depleted. We are using groundwater faster than it was being recharged and reducing the recharge with changing land use. The more roads and buildings built, the less recharge.

Prince William County is dependent on both groundwater and water from the Potomac and Occoquan reservoir. Groundwater supplies not only all the residents in the county who obtain their water from a private wells (about 15%-20%), but also a series of wells provides the public water supply in the Bull Run and Evergreen distribution area. Groundwater also provides base flow to our rivers and streams. There was a time when much of the public water in Prince William came from public wells, but contamination and other issues have required that Prince William County abandon many of the public wells and purchase water from Fairfax Water and Lake Manassas for the Western Distribution system and Fairfax Water for the eastern distribution system.

Our communities are dependent on water and those water resources are limited. In order to purchase more water from Fairfax Water, Prince William would have to have to make additional capital investments into the water treatment and storage in Fairfax county, if adequate water is even available to purchase. In addition, Prince William County would have to provide water distribution and sewage to any higher density development.

Making changes to the Rural Crescent that lets existing residents or future residents run out of water or have inadequate water to meet future planned development is unacceptable. State law now requires that the County’s Comprehensive Plan address water availability, quality and sustainability as well as transportation needs directly, and as practical matter new development creates a need for schools, hospitals, and electrical capacity with associated demands and impacts on water resources which must also be addressed. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

VDOT installs Safety Edges on Roads

To get to my house, you need to take the last right turnoff before the state maintained paved portion of the rural road ends. For years the pavement has been crumbling and the County has been patching the road. This year the Prince William County Department of Transportation reconstructed the mile and a half paved portion of the road. When the county rebuilt the road they included a pavement shoulder wedge also known as a safety wedge.
from VDOT
This pavement shoulder wedge is created by shaping the edge of the pavement to 30 degrees using a commercially available device (called a shoe) that can be attached to the paver. The asphalt is extruded under the shoe, resulting in a durable edge that resists edge raveling and break off. After paving the gravel shoulder is regraded flush with the top of the pavement. When over time the edge becomes exposed, this shape can be more safely traversed than a vertical edge. 
from DOT
Research has shown this 30-degree shape allows drivers to re-enter the roadway safely. Providing a pavement shoulder wedge enables drivers who drift off the highway to return to the road safely. Rather than a vertical drop-off, the wedge provides a sloped surface at the edge of pavement, providing a strong, durable transition for vehicles. Even at higher speeds, a wedge helps make it easier for a vehicle to safely return to the paved roadway.

Rather than a vertical drop-off, the pavement shoulder wedge provides a sloped surface at the edge of pavement, providing a strong and durable transition for vehicles. On narrow and dark country roads the shoulder wedge allows drives to keep to their side of the road with confidence. In addition, a double yellow line was added to our road to keep drivers on their side of the road.

According to research from the Federal  Department of Transportation (DOT) vertical pavement edge drop-offs have been a factor in a substantial percentage of severe crashes in which vehicles leave the road, particularly on rural roads with unpaved shoulders. The pavement shoulder wedge reduces this problem, providing a safer transition back to the road.

The pavement shoulder wedge reduces the risk of drop-offs when maintenance forces cannot keep up with erosion or tire wear. In addition, the pavement shoulder wedge reduces edge raveling and contributes to longer pavement life. Installing the pavement shoulder wedge involves minimal time and cost to implement. According to DOT less than 1 percent additional asphalt is needed. The pavement shoulder wedge shoe, which creates the edge, can be installed on existing equipment and reportedly does not impact the rate of paving. According to VDOT the pavement shoulder wedge also provides a means of strengthening and stabilizing the pavement edge to aid in reducing maintenance cost and longer term pavement performance.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Prince William County Wins APWA Award

Prince William County Environmental Services Division has received the Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association (APWA)  for the restoration of a section of Dewey's Creek along Possum Point Road.

The Dewey's Creek project used sustainable techniques to stabilize the creek, reduce bank erosion, provide protection to the road and other infrastructure, enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitat, and prevent flooding at Possum Point Road and nearby properties. The project restored 1,380-linear-feet of Dewey’s Creek.

Stream restoration includes directing the flow of water to the center of the stream channel to prevent bank erosion, introducing riffles that add oxygen into the water, adding riffle-pool structures to provide wildlife habitat and establishing vegetation along the stream. Stream restoration is time consuming and meticulous work taking into consideration, natural terrain and existing infrastructure.

Marc Aveni, Prince William County Environmental Services Chief, said that once restoration projects are done, everyone is happy. "The environmental community likes it because we're restoring the stream, and the public likes it because it looks like a park when we're done and it can increase property values."

In all, the county's Department of Public Works has completed 11 projects since 2013, for a total of $6.3 million, with at least half of that paid in state grants. According to Mr. Aveni, "It reduces the burden on our taxpayers… if we get millions from the state, we don't have to raise the fees on the homeowners who pay the stormwater management fee."

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Food Waste and the Environment

Ever since Prince William County revamped the recyclingprogram for the County, I have been spending more time thinking and reading about waste. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the U. S. generated 262.4 million tons of trash in 2015 or 4.48 pounds per person per day. In 2015 more than 39 million tons of that waste or 15% consisted of food waste. 
from EPA
 Food waste includes unsold food from retail stores; plate waste, uneaten prepared food, or kitchen trimmings from restaurants, cafeterias, and households; or by-products from food and beverage processing facilities. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide in 2011 was lost or wasted. The United States level  of food waste is a lower percentage because we generate so much more other waste. Our total food waste per person is 0.67 pounds per person per day.

from EPA

Food's carbon footprint, or the greenhouse gas emissions produced by growing, rearing, farming, processing, transporting, storing, cooking and disposing of the food you eat is huge. According to data from Climate Change News, without accounting for GHG emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated to be about 9% of mankind’s CO2 equivalent generation. If it was a nation, food waste would ranks as the third largest carbon emitter after China and the U.S.

In our changing climate and the growing population’s increased need for food highlights the need for a more sustainable food system or at least one that can feed more people and have a smaller impact on the planet. The largest environmental impact from food comes from the production and consumption of meat and dairy products. In case you haven’t noticed the meme is to eat a mostly vegetable based diet, for your health and the impact on the environment. However, start by reducing your food waste before you change your diet.

When you get around to thinking about your diet, I like Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules,” as a guide to eating. Mr. Pollan says "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." By “Eat food" he means to eat real food -- vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish and meat -- and to avoid what Mr. Pollan calls "edible food-like substances." I encourage you to also read the Omnivoure’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

Nonetheless, the easiest way to reduce the environmental footprint of what you eat is to reduce your food waste. There are many source of food waste in the food chain, but let’s start with ourselves. The factors that generate household food waste are multi-faceted and complex, the EPA has a series of tips on how you can reduce your food waste. Instead of studying the charts and suggestions, why don’t you consider taking the food waste challenge from the EPA which entails some real work: measuring your actual food waste, then implementing strategies to improve your behavior while continuing to measure your food waste.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Still Thinking About My Well

My well water has remained clear since my little episode of brown tinged water last weekend. My little episode occurred briefly first thing in the morning. I ran the water for a couple of minutes, but it stayed discolored. I turned on the hose and watered my flowers in front. The water cleared up while I was doing that.

Even though the problem has resolved itself and I know I do not have coliform bacteria in my water, some fault in the well or pump system caused this. My well and the equipment are almost 15 years old. I called Monticello Pump Service in Manassas and Jason was going to pass my house on his way back to Manassas so he stopped by to take a quick look at my equipment.

The first thing Jason pointed out to me after we turned on a couple of taps to run the pump, is the most obvious thing I had missed. My pressure gauge was not working. The pump, however, was pulling a steady 7.5 amps without so much as a flutter. Though the pressure gauge was not working the pressure switch, which I had checked previously, was working fine and the pressure tank was still also working fine delivering water throughout the house. The pressure gauge does not control the pressure gauge it is just an indicator (like the gas gauge in your car).

Monticello Pump Service is a licensed well service company that participates in the Virginia Tech “Well Check” program. Though, they have a 4” camera that could go down the well, it requires pulling the pump and being without water for 48 hours to get a good view. We discussed what it could have been to cause the brown water episode. Jason brought up the California earthquakes.

A 6.4 magnitude earth quake hit near Ridgecrest, CA on Thursday and a larger 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit near Death Valley on Friday. I took a look at the USGS Groundwater Monitoring System wells and there was indeed some change associated with the nearby monitoring well but the very minor impact I saw would not necessarily been seen in the time around the earthquakes. The much larger change recorded Sunday left me wondering how to interpret this data or if it was unrelated to my minor discolored water incident. This is the provisional graph from the well closest to my house.
from USGS VA Water Data
Hydro-geologic responses to earthquakes have been observed to occur both in the area of the earthquake and thousands of miles from the earthquake epicenter. Earthquakes impact groundwater the most commonly observed impact is to water wells. Some well have been observed to become turbid or muddy, some have run dry or had an increase in flow or water level. The most common type of observed ground-water response is an instantaneous water-level fall or rise and can occur near or far from the epicenter of the quake. This could cause the pump to "burp." Recovery to the pre-earthquake water level can be so rapid as to be almost unnoticeable, or it may take as long as several days or months. 

Overall, I just do not know what could have caused the small burp and brief episode of slightly discolored water. It may be nothing- a transient expression of the series of earthquakes that have appeared recently, or the first symptom of an aging pump and pressure tank. I will never know I am not inclined to repair the pressure gauge on a 15 year old pressure tank. Now, I am considering if I should just go ahead and replace the pressure tank and piping this year and consider moving up the replacement of my pump and wiring to next year. I am not inclined to wait for my well components to fail before I replace them.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Projected Water Use at Monterey Church

If you recall, Monterey Church has requested a special use permit to build a church on a ±16.57-acre site zoned A-1, Agricultural. Development of the site is planned to ultimately hold a ±55,000-square-foot building with 900 seats and related paved parking. Because the land is in the Rural Crescent, the church will require a special use permit.

The site is located at 9514 Auburn Road and on the west side of Auburn Road, approximately 400 feet south of the intersection of Vint Hill Road and Auburn Road. The church proposes to cover more than 50% of the land area with buildings and parking for 380 cars.

The site is within the Rural Crescent of Prince William County. The Rural Crescent depends on groundwater as the sole water supply for all the existing and future residents, and Monterey Church will depend on an on-site well (or wells) for water supply and septic for sewage.

How any proposed land use will impact water and groundwater sustainability for the Church and their existing neighbors should be one of the first questions asked, but is not considered in the application for the special use permit. The right of existing property owners to their water is primary and valuable and should not be compromised or impaired. While groundwater is a renewable resource it is NOT unlimited.
from Soil Society of America.  Image created by LEARN NC,
Changing the use of the land, covering it with buildings, driveways, roads, walkway and other impervious surfaces will change the hydrology of the site reducing groundwater recharge in the surrounding area. It is estimated by the US EPA that groundwater recharge with that much groundcover will be reduced around 60%. Once the hydrology is destroyed by development, it cannot be easily restored, if at all. Martha Hendley posed some questions about the water use to the Planning Department  which remained unanswered:

“ 1.  What is the anticipated water use for a church that size?  If figures aren't available for a church on a well, might there be figures accessible for church properties of similar size on public water with a meter?
 2.  How does that volume of water usage compare with say, a 4-bedroom single family home?  Again, if there are no figures for wells, there should certainly be figures for public water.  Surely there must be average figures or at least ranges for both 1. and 2.
 3.  Perhaps a comparison could be calculated from another direction as well.  What comes in, must go out.  So what would be the capacity in gallons of the septic system required for a church of that size?    And how would that compare with a 4-bedroom single-family house?”

Martha never got  answers to her questions. However, if she had asked me, I would have told her there are lots of statistics on typical water consumption. The typical American family uses 300 gallons of water a day, but the home that would have been built on this lot would have be larger than typical, but unlike places like Arizona, Florida etc. rural Virginia has much less outdoor use of water. According to US Geological Survey water consumption data the typical Virginia well owner per person consumption is 68 gallons per day. (In Virginia the typical well owner does not water their lawn, though commercial properties and Churches do.) According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) the typical large building assembly water usage (this excludes schools with athletic fields) translates to 3,000-4,000 gallons per day for a 55,000 square foot Church.

Thus, it would be safe to say the water usage would be about 10 times the use of a single family (large luxury) home. The water available at this site will be diminished by the building of the church. Changing the use of the land, covering it with buildings, driveways, roads, walkway and other impervious surfaces will change the hydrology of the site reducing groundwater recharge on site and in the surrounding area. It is estimated that groundwater recharge will be reduced around 60% based on USGS data. Over time the groundwater recharges less, but the Church continue to use water. Water usage and availability need to be considered for the special use permit.

Monday, July 8, 2019

A Sudden Change in Water

I am not immune to well issues. It was 5:45 am on Saturday and I was washing the cats’ bowls. When I turned on the cold water tap I heard a small burp and saw that the water appeared slightly discolored. It had a bit of a brown tinge against the white sink. I filled a tall clear glass and looked at the water-yep it was a little brown.

Brownish or dirty looking water can be caused by many things. With a little effort and money you can narrow down the possibilities. The major causes of brownish or dirty water are:
  1. Surface infiltration or other contamination 
  2. Well collapsing, damage to the well or water level dropping 
  3. Iron (and/or manganese) in the water
  4. Rust or breakdown of the metals in in the household piping or fixtures
Earthquakes can also cause a change in water, either by loosening fine grains of silt and soil or lowering the water level. The distance that an earthquake can impact groundwater is surprising. The slight burp suggested the pump may have pulled a bit of dirt or gotten clogged by something pulled out of the water. It is not normal.

The first thing I did was go outside and check my well cap. Last fall when I chlorine treated my well to keep the iron bacteria in check, I sheared off one of the bolts on the well cap. I figured that the other four bolts would hold the cap in place adequately, and I would get around to replacing the cap the next time I chlorinated the well. The well cap looked fine, the seal seemed good. I did not observe any changes in the well head.

It didn’t rain last night or very much lately, so it probably was not surface infiltration, but just to be sure and check for potential contamination from a failing septic system (mine or my neighbor’s), I’m checking the bacteria. My septic tanks were pumped about 18 months ago and my alternative septic system inspected less than two months ago. I was not really expecting to have a problem with that, but it is a possibility. My neighbors may not have been as diligent in maintaining their systems.

I test my well water every year at the County Water Clinic- I got the results back May 6th and the water was fine, no problems with anything. However, I also test my well for coliform every few months using a “Safe Home” do it yourself bacteria test and always have a couple around the house. I pulled one out to test the water. If there is any sudden change in your water appearance or taste, always test your water. I drew the sample; it takes 24 hours to get the results. By Sunday morning the test results showed that the coliform bacteria were ABSENT.

A bacteria test checks for the presence of total coliform bacteria which includes harmless and fecal bacteria. These bacteria are not normally present in deeper groundwater sources. They are associated with warm-blooded animals, so they are normally found in surface water and in shallow groundwater (less than 20-40 feet deep). Most coliform bacteria (with the exception of fecal and e-coli) are not harmful to humans. Typically, a well with surface infiltration has an episodic discoloration of the water often associated with rainfall and snow melt. The presence of coliform surface bacteria would certainly identify there is a problem with water quality. So, I know that I do not have surface infiltration or contamination from septic.

The next likely source of brown water is from the well itself. It is typical in Virginia not to have well casing beyond 40-50 feet deep which is true for my well. I have the most common modern well installation, an immersion pump down in the well. Changes in water level or supply could result in the pump pulling up a bit of mud or the pump could have wracked a bit and is hitting the side of the well hole. Also, a bit of debris in the well or from the pump could have been pulled up. This could be the cause of my problem.

Water that suddenly turns brown and stays that way for more than a few minutes may indicate a problem with the well structure, pipe or casing, or be an indication that the water level is dropping. Your well could be going dry. If your well is going dry, then the first signs of a problem might be brownish water appearing seasonally when there is a lot of water use at the end of a day.

My little episode occurred briefly first thing in the morning. I ran the water for a couple of minutes, but it stayed discolored. I turned on the hose and watered my flowers in front. The water cleared up while I was doing that. I came back into the house to confirm that on the white sink. That would seem to indicate that the pump pulled something out of the well.

Another source of brown water is iron (and/or manganese) in the water. Iron and manganese exist in many different chemical forms, and are naturally occurring elements commonly found in groundwater in many parts of the country. At levels naturally present in groundwater iron and manganese do not present a health hazard. However, their presence in well water can cause unpleasant taste, staining and accumulation of mineral solids that can clog water treatment equipment and plumbing and appear as be left as granules or sediment in tubs.

My water tests results on May 6th showed very low levels of iron and manganese. While water chemistry can vary somewhat, it is highly unlikely that it could have changed that quickly and significantly. It is possible that some build up from iron bacteria that I treat my well for every other years broke got pulled up, but that generally appears as a bit of slime floating in the water.

Finally, rust or breakdown of the metals in in the household piping or fixtures can cause water to appear brown or dirty. This is also unlikely, my pipes are plastic, the discoloration was at more than one sink and both faucet sets were less than 4 years old. In addition, the water was running clear within minutes. Nonetheless, this could be the beginning of a problem with my well or equipment.

Even though the problem has resolved itself and I know I do not have coliform bacteria in my water, I plan to investigate further. Some fault in the well or pump system caused this and the well and equipment is almost 15 years old and should not be ignored. This is where I get to spend money. Next up will be a “Well Check” from a company participating in the Virginia Tech program and possibly have a camera put down the well to see what is going on.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Chennai, India out of Water

Chennai, India has run out of water. The metropolitan area Chennai, once known as Madras, is home to 9 million people without adequate water. Chennai’s reservoirs and lakes are parched- with less than 0.2% of their reservoir's capacity full; and the city’s groundwater wells have run dry, too. To keep people alive local authorities are trucking in water and desalinating seawater, but the overall supply is 60% of what the government calls “ the city's basic requirement”- private companies are also trucking in water, but there is just not enough.

The images below are of Puzhal Lake, one of the four main reservoirs that serves the city taken a year apart. The first image was taken the last week in June 2019 showing a dry lake bed; and the second image taken in June 2018 shows a blue lake. The images are from NASA’s Earth Observatory.

from NASA
The water shortage is partly caused by low rainfall over the past few months; and partially by poor water management practices. In 2018, the city experienced one of its weakest northeast monsoon seasons, which runs from October to December and provides a large portion of the area’s annual rainfall. In addition, the southwest summer monsoon season  that should have started last month and run through September has been delayed across most of India. So far only short rainfalls have fallen in Chennai.

India is the world's largest user of groundwater and the north-east monsoon, which brings most of the water to this region in October and November, is unpredictable. Some years it pours, and in other years, it just fails to show up or does not carry enough water. Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi are all facing water shortages. It was reported that 65% of the country’s reservoirs were running dry. Growth in cities and development has been pursued without regard to water availability and sustainability.

The BBC reports that between 1980 and 2010, the land area of Chennai covered with buildings increased from 47 square kilometers to 402 square kilometers. Meanwhile, wetland areas declined from 186 square kilometers to 71.5 square kilometers. This has reduced the recharge of groundwater in the region as water demand has increased pumping. Groundwater recharges at various rates from precipitation. To recharge groundwater, it must rain (or snow) and the soil must absorb the water. Changes in rainfall patterns and impervious ground cover can impact the recharge rate of groundwater.

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission from NASA has been monitoring groundwater for almost 20 years. Two papers analyzing data from the first 10 years found that the Arabian Aquifer System, an essential water source for more than 60 million people in the Middle East, is the most over-stressed aquifer on earth. The Indus Basin aquifer of northwestern India and Pakistan was the second-most over-stressed and supports a much bigger population that is rapidly changing development. Water management practices and water planning desperately need to change. For too long India only land availability has limited development, not water availability and sustainability.  

Monday, July 1, 2019

Comment Period Open for River Renew Project

The Environment Assessment for Alexandria's  River ReNew project has been released and is open for a 30-day public comment period until July 19th . This proposed project is an overall win for the environment and will help meeting the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, but nothing is without cost and there are a few trade offs and residents may experience several years of disruption. Take a look at the report to see if there are portions you want to comment on.

For example: some of the options considered would require building a new promenade near the Robinson Terminal North. The Royal Street options locate construction activities a greater distance from residential properties and community gardens than the Green Street option. Additionally, the Royal Street options maintain access to Jones Point Park and are not anticipated to interfere with the Basilica School traffic movements. However, the Royal Street North option would allow the tunnel to be routed under an existing road through St. Mary’s Cemetery, whereas the Royal Street South option would require the tunnel to be routed under numerous graves which might require their removal. Choices have to be made. Construction is expected to take several years, so that even temporary disruptions to access to parks or road disruptions and noise may impact your life. Make sure you know how the project will impact your life and your concerns are heard.

Nonetheless, the work needs to be done. The area of Alexandria around Old Town has a Combined Sewer System which is a piped sewer system where there is one pipe that carries both sanitary sewage and stormwater to the local wastewater treatment plant, AlexRenew. This was how sewer systems were often built in the days when sanitation was simply moving sewage out of the city to the rivers and streams. Back then one piping system was cheaper and adequate for the job. Today when sewage is treated by waste water treatment plants that is no longer adequate.

When it rains, water that falls in the streets, enters the storm water drains and is combined with the sanitary waste water entering the sewers from homes and businesses. The combined flow of the sewage and rain can overwhelm the waste water treatment plant. So, to protect the sewage system as a whole, the combined sewage and rainfall is released into the local creeks from one of the “Combined Sewer Overflows” which are release locations permitted and monitored by the regulators. Though monitored, these releases increase nutrient and bacterial contamination to the streams and rivers.

On average, approximately 140 million gallons of combined sewage are discharged from these outfalls each year. The mixture of untreated sewage and rainwater, impair water quality by increasing bacteria levels which contributes to low dissolved oxygen levels. Low dissolved oxygen levels adversely affect aquatic life and can increase the potential for fish stress or fish kills. The combined sewer discharges also pose health risks to the general public associated with exposure to untreated sewage.

The 2017 mandate from the state legislature was to eliminate these overflows by 2025, creating a big challenge for the city that they were not sure they could meet without help. Based on the experience of Washington DC and other cities in addressing their combined sewer problem, Alexandria partnered with AlexRenew and submitted a long term control plan to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) that was approved on July 1, 2018.
From EA for River Renew project
In order to accomplish the plan, Alexandria transferred ownership of the outfalls and the interceptor lines (the sewer mains transporting to the raw sewage to the treatment plant) to AlexRenew. The approved plan, called RiverRenew, includes building a tunnel system with:
  •  Storage tunnels
  •  Conveyance tunnels
  •  Diversion facilities (diversion chambers and drop shafts)
  •  Dewatering pumping stations
and upgrading the AlexRenew waste water treatment plant by:
  •  Adding a wet weather pumping station and
  •  Increase treatment peak capacity for the waste water treatment plant from 108 to 116 million gallons a day
RiverRenew when completed will prevent millions of gallons of sewage mixed with rainwater from contaminating the Alexandria rivers and streams. This will limit the amount of bacteria, trash, and other pollutants flowing into Hooffs Run, Hunting Creek, and the Potomac River and achieve cleaner, healthier waterways for Alexandria. All the impacts of this project are not positive. An Environment Assessment is required to explore all the potential impact to the community of the various options and regulations require that there be and open comment period.

Most of the impacts addressed are short term, but there are also some long term environmental impacts to the proposed project parts. According to the Environmental Assessment general temporary impact identified are:
  •  Construction could disturb soils and temporarily contribute to water quality degradation.
  •  Construction could result in temporary disruptions to vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic.
  •  Construction could result in disturbances to the Potomac River and Hooffs Run.
  •  Temporary noise could be generated at construction sites and may extend into evening and weekend hours.
Longer term impacts identified:
  •  The proposed action could detract from Jones Point Park not only during construction,but afterwards when permanent supporting tunnel infrastructure has been installed.
  •  Construction could disturb known archeological resources and other areas of high archeological potential. 
  •  Construction could take place in proximity to historic structures that are listed, and others that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Vibrations and ground movement caused by  construction of the tunnels and surface facilities could also affect the integrity of historic structures.