The sewer rehabilitation project in the Soapstone Valley is also a stream restoration project, intended both to repair damage from years of stormwater erosion and to armor the sewer lines and access points against future stormwater events.
Jerrell Johnson of DC Water told ANC 3F’s July 19th meeting (watch the presentation) that 45 percent of the stream restoration work was complete, and the work was 100 percent complete at two of the six work sites in the valley.
The stream restoration work at Site 1, the work site closest to Connecticut Avenue, will be finished by the end of the month, and not a moment too soon for residents of neighboring buildings. A resident of Park Van Ness told DC Water officials and ANC commissioners that she had measured noise in excess of 80 decibels from inside her apartment, and the noise was constant, going from 7 in the morning until 5 to 7 at night.
Johnson said the noise was from two pumps used to reroute the creek and the discharge from a storm sewer pipe, and that the DC Water team has tried to resolve the noise issue by installing “noise-reducing shelters.”
He also said the team is working as quickly as it can to finish the Site 1 work requiring the use of one pump, at which point it will be removed. Johnson did not give a timeline for the removal of the other pump.
Will Elledge of DC Water, who has been a constant presence in the nine years since the project was presented to the community, said the noise is below the city’s allowable limits. However, DC regulations show 70 decibels is the limit for construction noise. Forest Hills Connection has asked DC Water for clarification.
The next stage of the project is the restoration of the 110-year-old sewer pipes, which will be relined with a plastic resin in a process called “cured-in-place pipe,” or CIPP. Johnson said the DC Department of Energy and Environment is requiring an air quality permit for the boiler truck, which will be idling for six to eight hours a day while it heats the water required for curing the lining. DC Water’s permit application is still pending, and Johnson said DOEE had returned it for further clarification.
Upon questioning about the timing of the CIPP work, Kevin Schnabel of Soapstone contractor IPR said they cannot begin without the DOEE permit, and that this part of the project would not get under way for at least 60 days. He also said the community would be notified before the work gets under way.
Another update on the project came from ANC 3F Commissioner Dipa Mehta, who talked about a recent meeting she had with DOEE, DC Water and AECOM, an engineering firm who has been brought on to develop an air quality monitoring plan. Also in attendance were Marjorie Share, a community activist who initially raised concerns about the emissions from steam and hot water methods of curing the pipe lining, and Mitch Baer, an air quality expert and resident of Park Van Ness. Mehta reminded viewers that the reason the community was raising air safety concerns is that the process is like manufacturing plastic, a process that is heavily regulated when performed indoors. Elledge clarified that while AECOM is developing the monitoring plan, the Water Research Foundation, an Alexandria-based nonprofit, would hire a university to conduct the air quality testing and oversee that work.
David Bardin, a former ANC commissioner who once served on the DC Water Board of Directors, asked Elledge for a yes or no answer to his question: whether the utility knew, in all the years it’s been using CIPP for rehabilitating sewer pipes, how many chemicals were released into the air using using this process. Elledge said DC Water has been using CIPP since the 1980s, and his answer was no.
Mehta also said she would work closely with DC Water on augmenting public communication on the project so that neighbors and community members would have a better sense of the timeline, work hours, and emissions testing results: “all of those various components about the project that are particularly relevant for the homes and businesses that are directly adjacent to the project site.”
To receive regular email updates from DC Water on the Soapstone sewer project, write to email@example.com with “ADD ME” in the subject line. The 24/7 project hotline is 202-301-8058.