DC Water is planning to begin the work of rehabilitating Soapstone Valley’s century-old sewer pipes in mid-summer, according to the legislative director for Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh.
Michael Porcello mentioned the summer start date in a January 7th email to this reporter, ANC 3F commissioners, and Marjorie Share, a Forest Hills neighbor who documented research on toxic emissions from the steam cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) method of relining the sewage lines. DC Water had previously targeted a winter 2021-2022 start date.
“[S]everal neighbors have reached out to our office on this particular issue, and we had been working over the holiday with DC Water to get clarity on their plans for this work in Soapstone Valley,” Porcello wrote. “We’ve also encouraged them to pause that work, at least temporarily, both until we can be sure the technology used is safe for residents and project staff, and to provide time to meet directly with the community to discuss the project and this particular technology.”
Last week, Porcello said in the email, DC Water informed Cheh’s office that the agency would not move forward until “mid-summer at the earliest.” More community meetings would be scheduled to discuss the concerns raised about the project. And, DC Water told Porcello that it has been in contact with the DC Department of Energy and the Environment [DOEE], “our local experts on pollution issues,” about the sewer rehabilitation technology.
DOEE’s air quality permitting chief, Stephen Ours, said the agency is requiring DC Water to apply for a “Chapter 2” air quality permit to “construct/operate a stationary source of air pollutants” if it decides to proceed with the steam CIPP method.
“We expect that this project would be subject to a minor source permit,” Ours told Forest Hill Connection in an email. Minor sources include “gas stations, dry cleaners, auto body shops, sites using generators, and small printing facilities.” And DC Water, he said, must also follow federal regulations under the Clean Air Act.
Air pollutants produced by the steam method of curing the resin used to reline the pipes were not included in the environmental assessment approved by the National Park Service last year. Marjorie Share, in a December 6th Forest Hills Connection op-ed, wrote that some states have acted to ban or more stringently regulate this technology. During a community meeting with DC Water the following day, residents had many questions and concerns about how the agency was going to manage and monitor the air pollution. DC Water provided no clear answers.
After Share’s post in Forest Hills Connection, DC Water requested two follow-up virtual meetings, one with me on December 8th and one with both Marjorie Share and me on December 14th. During the first, Will Elledge, a DC Water project and design manager, asked me what would make the community feel comfortable with this project. I replied that DC Water needed to present a plan of how they would manage and monitor the air pollution, hire an independent inspector, and have a clear shutdown process. Elledge made no commitments.
During the December 14th meeting, Elledge said DC Water was rethinking the CIPP technology. When asked about construction status, he mentioned that they were in the process of getting permits from the National Park Service and DOEE.
In the first week of January, Elledge and DOEE responded to our queries about what permits were required and still outstanding with a list that did not include an air quality permit. In response to our follow up query about DOEE’s requirement, Elledge responded that he would know better in February about its impact on the project.