For Immediate Release: April 5, 2017
The Virginia General Assembly has rejected amendments to legislation regarding the City’s efforts to improve water quality, and has sent the bills back to the Governor in the form originally passed earlier this year. The bills, SB 898 and HB 2383, would require that construction to remediate the combined sewer outfalls in Alexandria start by July 1, 2023, and be completed by July 1, 2025, which engineers with extensive combined sewer experience have determined is not feasible.
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. The City’s four combined sewer outfalls already operate under state permits and comply with all federal and state laws, regulations, and permit requirements, including the federal Clean Water Act.
The General Assembly rejected amendments recommended by the Governor, which would have changed the required initiation and completion deadlines to 2024 and 2027, respectively, and given the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality the authority to grant six-month extensions up to 2030 to address circumstances beyond the City’s control.
“We appreciate the Governor’s efforts to reach a compromise on these mega-projects, as well as those General Assembly members who supported a reasonable timeline,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg. “We regret the legislature’s insistence on deadlines that engineers have determined are unreasonable, and we request that the Governor veto the bills. We are fully committed to working with all deliberate speed to getting all four outfalls in Alexandria done, and to getting them done right.”
The capital budget proposed by City Manager Mark B. Jinks in February includes $386 million in spending over the next 10 years, to be funded primarily by projected increases in City sewer fees of more than 500% by 2027. These fees are paid by residential, commercial, and non-profit customers. The budget includes the assumption of $54 million in state aid, like the assistance previously provided to Lynchburg and Richmond to address combined sewer outfalls in those cities.
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.