Don’t read this over lunch1 March 2019
For Washington, D.C., 2018 was the wettest year on record. National Airport reported 66.28 inches of rain, which outpaced the prior record of 61.33 inches (1,558mm) from 1889 and was more than 26 inches above the normal rainfall amount in a year (39.74 inches). In addition, five months of the year (May, July, September, November and December) ranked among the top 10 wettest months on record.
In the first week of the New Year DC Water announced its Anacostia River Tunnel saved said river from 4.5 billion gallons of sewage overflow in 2018. That also includes nearly 900 tons of trash, solids and debris. The new seven-mile tunnel had only opened that March.
George Hawkins, DC Water CEO and president, called 2018 the ultimate test for the city’s Clean Rivers Project tunnel system, noting that it beat all projections for cleaning the river. “The improved health of this waterway is bringing a renaissance to the waterfront from housing, retail and sports venues, to recreational and environmental opportunities,” Hawkins said.
It is often lamented the work and accomplishments of the tunnelling industry go unseen by the greater public, therefore potentially losing out when it comes to funding or support to more visible bridge and road projects.
Perhaps the public isn’t impressed by figures of billions of gallons and glaze over as local media cite these unimaginable quantities.
Someday, in the oppressive summer heat, when the Anacostia River is swimmable and fishable, there will be a very physical reminder for the city of what has been accomplished with this tunnel system.
What is more often recognisible is the multitude of benefits when investing in underground infrastructure.
In this issue you’ll find a project report from Louisville where the MSD has chosen to build a tunnel in lieu of four storage basins. The tunnel will provide more capacity and fewer construction disruptions than the original plans.
As this issue goes to print, there’s talk of converting proposed storage basins planned for Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal into a tunnel project instead, and for reasons identical to those of Louisville.
This would be for the canal described by the New York Times as “a sickly body of sluggish, often fetid water that despite years of fitful improvements (the herons and striped bass are back again) still seems like the last place a person might want to live.”
Tunnels may not be so easily seen, but as a solution they seemingly increasingly welcome.