Friday, March 16, 2018

Been There, Done That

Experiencing the Anacostia
On March 5th, young rowers braved the cold for crew practice on the Anacostia River in Maryland. The teams returned to dock at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park, just a few miles upstream from the nearly-completed Anacostia River Tunnel. The tunnel will prevent combined sewer overflows that lead to raw sewage entering the river.

A combined sewer system transports both sewage and stormwater in the same pipes. Normally, this is all taken to a wastewater treatment plant for cleaning. However, during large rainstorms when the sewer system is unable to handle the influx of water, combined sewer overflows can occur. To prevent flooding, excess flow—this combination of rainwater and untreated sewage—is discharged directly into rivers or creeks. The Anacostia River Tunnel is part of a plan to reduce this overflow by up to 80 percent, leading to vastly improved water quality in the river.

Completion of the tunnel is just one of the major Anacostia milestones for 2018, which has been declared “the Year of the Anacostia.” This year is the 100th anniversary of the law which preserved open space along the river as Anacostia Park. It also marks 200 years since Frederick Douglass, whose historic home is in the Anacostia area, was born.
I spent a lot of time on the Anacostia in my later working years, sampling water and sediments, and occasionally organisms for heavy metals. I would be curious to see it now, after a few years have elapsed (and some big project built around the river) to see whether it has noticeably improved. Parts of it were pretty scenic even then, if you could see past all the trash that washed into it.

I looked into the Anacostia Tunnel noted above, and it has the potential to make a big difference
The Anacostia River Tunnel Project is the second in a series of four tunnels that will mitigate combined sewer overflows that are currently discharged to the Anacostia River. The 23 foot diameter tunnel is approximately 12,500 feet in length and extends from Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Stadium in northeast DC to Poplar Point in southeast DC. In addition to the tunnel construction, DC Water has also been building surface facilities to divert the combined sewer overflows to the tunnel at various sites along the I-295 corridor, M Street SE and the Southeast Freeway. These facilities include deep shafts that range from 20 to 60 feet wide and large concrete structures to divert raw sewage from being discharged to the Anacostia River. The construction of these facilities is unparalleled in the District. Not since the construction of the original sewer system in the early 1900’s and the Metro has the District seen construction of this magnitude.
Since CSOs were the major reason for trash on the river, it very well might.

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