ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — Cleaner water is coming to Alexandria.

The AlexRenew Enterprises Board awarded Traylor-Shea a contract to complete the RiverRenew Tunnel System Project. 

On Nov. 17th, the board awarded the $454.4 million dollar contract to Traylor-Shea to design and construct the project. This is the first major milestone in upgrading the city’s centuries-old piping after a law was passed in 2017 to deliver cleaner waterways to Alexandria.  

“The sewer system itself was built in the eighteen hundreds and what you find in that sewer system is there’s one pipe that carries both wastewater and rainwater,” said Caitlin Feehan, RiverRenew Program Manager.” The 2017 law mandated the remediation of this system, and that’s what the RiverRenew program is focused on doing.” 

On rainy days, the rainwater mixes with the sewage water and can overwhelm the sewer system causing overflows into Alexandria’s waterbodies.

The two-mile-long, 12-foot-wide tunnel system will capture these overflows for proper cleaning at AlexRenew. The overflows from the rain occur in four main locations around the city and will be connected via the new tunnels.   

“All the water that we capture, all the sewage that is captured in this program will come to the wastewater plant to be treated,” said Justin Carl, RiverRenew Program Advisor.

The project aims to correct the issue caused by original piping dating back to the eighteen hundreds. The first wastewater treatment plants were built to treat sewage that was flowing directly to the waterways, but the overflows that happened because of rain still remained.  

“Back in the fifties, when the first wastewater treatment plants were built, it wasn’t required to capture all of that combined sewage and treat it,” said Carl.

Now, the project will help prevent roughly 130 million gallons of sewage from entering the Potomac River, and other local waterways, each year. 

However, RiverRenew says that one of the biggest challenges will be completing the project by its deadline of July 2025, as well as creating as little disruption to residents as possible.  

“The work that we are about to do in seven years is unprecedented for these types of systems that need to be built,” said Carl. 

Notice to proceed for the project will be Dec. 1st with construction expected to begin this spring.