THREE BAY WATERSHED CITIES ASK VA. FOR $1.4 BILLION IN WASTEWATER FIXES
The American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11 may offer infrastructure funding solutions to major pollution problems that have plagued Richmond, Alexandria, and Lynchburg, Va. for more than a century. Together, the three cities are asking Gov. Ralph Northam to allocate $1.4 billion to support these complex rebuilds, $883 million for Richmond, $500 million for Alexandria, and $50 million for Lynchburg. The proposal has strong bipartisan support in the Commonwealth’s General Assembly ahead of its August 2 special session.
Like many older cities in the United States (and around the Chesapeake watershed), Richmond, Alexandria, and Lynchburg have aging, late 19th-century combined sewer overflow (CSO) systems still draining areas within their corporate limits. During heavy rains, these CSOs bypass municipal wastewater treatment plants, sending raw sewage directly into local waterways, in these cases the James and Potomac rivers. Solving the problem is difficult and expensive because it involves “rebuilding that part of the city from underneath,” as one civil engineer described the process.