For Immediate Release: March 27, 2017
The City of Alexandria has been advised that Governor Terry McAuliffe will request amendments in lieu of signing two state bills regarding the City’s efforts to improve water quality. As passed by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year, SB 898 and HB 2383 would require that construction to remediate all four combined sewer outfalls in Alexandria start by July 1, 2023, and be completed by July 1, 2025. These requirements, which would not apply to any other locality with combined sewer outfalls, are unreasonable given the enormous scale of work required to design and install large storage tanks and sizeable underground storage tunnels. This work is expected to cost nearly $400 million.
The Governor’s amendments would change the required initiation and completion deadlines to 2024 and 2027, respectively. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) would be permitted to grant six-month extensions, but only up to 2030, to address circumstances beyond the City’s control. The City’s four combined sewer outfalls operate under state permits and comply with all federal and state laws, regulations, and permit requirements, including the federal Clean Water Act.
“We thank Gov. McAuliffe for requesting a more reasonable timeline for these mega-projects,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg. “While the new deadlines are still very aggressive, we are fully committed to doing what is needed for the four outfalls in Alexandria and getting them done right.”
The capital budget proposed by City Manager Mark B. Jinks on February 21 includes $386 million in spending over the next 10 years, to be funded primarily by projected increases in sewer-related fees of more than 500% by 2027. These fees are paid by residential, commercial, and non-profit customers.
“We will be proceeding with deliberate speed to plan, design and construct these complex mega-projects,” said Jinks. “We have heard the concerns of members of the General Assembly, and the bills, with these amendments, are responsive to those concerns.”
While 95 percent of Alexandria is served by separate sewer systems for stormwater and sewage, the remaining 5 percent is served by a combined sewer system. When too much rain flows into the system, it overflows into local waterways at four outfalls. Alexandria has one of the earliest combined sewer systems in the country, dating back to the early 1800s. More than 800 cities nationwide have a similar system, including neighboring outfalls that overflow into the Potomac River