It’s been three years since the last community meeting on plans to either rehabilitate or move century-old sewer pipes in Soapstone Valley. ANC 3F remains on top of this, and has this update.
by Naomi Rutenberg
ANC 3F03 Commissioner
Erosion by stormwater in Soapstone Valley has exposed sewer pipes and manholes originally buried under stones and soil. DC Water wants to rehabilitate its sewage pipes, leaving them inside the park. As a first step, it needs the National Park Service to issue a draft environmental assessment for public comment.
Both agencies want to avoid catastrophic failure of those exposed – and aging – sewer pipes. But the Park Service is concerned about the impact of the sewer line rehabilitation on the trees and the sewage odors escaping from manholes.
DC Water agreed to prepare an alternative proposal to reroute sewage flow outside the park, as requested by the Park Service. This alternative, according to DC Water, would require the addition of pumping stations and a permanent road across the park.
This alternative was presented in a community forum in August 2015. DC Water presented the rerouting alternative and offered some comparisons with the agency’s preferred course of relining all the pipes in the park. Here’s an excellent writeup of the proposals by David Jonas Bardin.
At that time, DC Water expected that a draft environmental assessment with two alternatives might be issued by the National Park Service for public comment in January 2016, after the two agencies agreed on details of those alternatives, and construction would begin sometime after 2017.
Last week, John Lisle, the chief of external affairs for DC Water, updated that timeline. In reply to questions emailed to him, Lisle said:
The Draft Statement of Findings (SOF) is currently being prepared and is expected to be submitted to the National Park Service (NPS) in the spring of 2018. NPS will review the SOF and provide feedback. This process may be repeated several times.
Once NPS approves the SOF, DC Water will move forward with the environmental assessment (EA) process. The amount of time required to update and submit a draft EA to NPS is dependent upon the SOF changes and input from other agencies.
The NPS (lead agency on this EA) determines when the Draft EA will be released to the public. It is important to note that there may be several versions of the Draft EA, before NPS deems it ready for public review. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires a public review period once the EA is made available to the public. At that time, stakeholders, such as Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs), and the public are notified and their input is encouraged.
To date, this is the most current information. DC Water looks forward to providing future updates to the ANCs once there is substantial progression.
Updates, if any, to the proposed alternatives are contained in the Draft EA. Mr. Lisle reiterated that NPS (the lead agency on this EA) determines when the Draft EA will be released to the public.
DC Water Outreach Manager Emanuel Briggs is happy to address questions. Contact him at Emanuel.Briggs@dcwater.com.