There is no denying that Old Town Alexandria has a certain magic to it. The 18th-century feel is completely authentic from the historic row houses, to the cobblestone street, to the combined sewer system. Unfortunately for this charming district, the later has been a cause of concern for quite some time. During a significant rain event, the city’s combined sewer system becomes overloaded with a mixture of storm water and raw sewage which then overflows directly into the local waterway through authorized combined sewer outfalls. Each of the four outfalls in the area is estimated to overflow into the waterway between 50 and 70 times per year! Ever notice that smell after a heavy rain? Gross.
The good news is that the City of Alexandria is working diligently to implement their Long-Term Control Plan which is aimed at remedying the situation. The construction of two underground storage tunnels with a combined capacity of three million gallons is planned to hold the contaminated water until it can be transported to the wastewater treatment plant. This would not completely stop outfall overflow events, but significantly decrease them from around 250 per year to about 8 per year. Consequently, the neighboring waterways would see a considerable decline in E-coli bacteria and floatables and the community will be on its way to a more sanitary, and better smelling, ecosystem.