Stop Using the Potomac River as a Sewage Dump | Letter to the Editor | Caleb Laieski

Mr. Laieski submitted the following, via email, to the Mayor of Alexandria, Alexandria City Council Members and to Old Town Post:

I’m sure you saw the stories on WUSA9 and in the Washington Post. They were hard to miss: Alexandria spews 70 million gallons of stormwater mixed with raw sewage and trash into the Potomac River each year. 

I am writing this letter because I am asking you to do your part to put an end to this as soon as possible. I believe our public officials have a responsibility to protect public health and our natural resources. Dumping sewage into our river is a threat to both, and it has gone on for far too long. 

Taking action will demand resources and a re-examination of budget priorities. But Alexandria’s antiquated sewer system, which combines polluted stormwater with household sewage, is long overdue for an upgrade. It is absolutely unacceptable that Alexandria, one of the wealthiest communities in Virginia, violates the Clean Water Act during heavy rain events by discharging raw sewage, pet waste, fertilizers and trash from storm drains directly into the Potomac River — just steps from Old Town! It’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for business, and it’s bad for the reputation of a city that has made significant strides toward more sustainable policies. 

The city has ignored requests from city residents, state legislators, and numerous organizations to eliminate this illegal and harmful sewage dumping from its largest discharge point (Outfall 001) located at the Alexandria waterfront in Oronoco Bay, where anglers and boaters frequently use the river. 

I am writing to request that you please make upgrading the city’s sewer and stormwater system a top priority for the fiscal year FY 2018 Budget. It is critical that: 

1) The Alexandria City Council revise its Long Term Control Plan to comply with the federal Clean Water Act and protect public health by eliminating all untreated sewage and stormwater discharges from Outfall 001 into the Potomac River! 

2) Alexandria allocate Capital Funds from its FY 2018 budget and develop a stormwater utility fee and re-allocate financial resources to stop sewage-contaminated stormwater from being dumped into the Potomac River. 

The Potomac River is a public resource, a source of pride, and important to city residents, not a private dumping zone for Alexandria. As you make decisions that determine how Alexandria will invest in infrastructure critical to the protection of our environment and our health, please share that message from me. We’ve kicked this problem down the road for decades. I’m asking that you take action now. 

Thank you for your time and consideration, 

Caleb Laieski

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