One Hundred Feet Underground, a Solution to Potomac & Anacostia River Pollution

It’s no secret.  The Potomac and Anacostia Rivers (especially the Anacostia!) are filthy.  Much of the problem derives from raw sewage overflowing directly into them, or tributaries such as Rock Creek, at one of the 53 Combined Sewer Overflow outfalls throughout DC.  This occurs whenever there is more than just a trace of rainfall.  In the case of “significant” rainfall, i.e. more than 1″, the impact can be dramatic.  If you’re not familiar with how or why this occurs, here is a primer.  If we ever hope to see our local rivers cleaned up and returned to life as hubs for outdoor activity, we have to fix this problem.

So, what is being done about it, you ask?  It’s not a simple – or cheap – problem to fix.  At a cost of $2.6 billion, DC Water is undertaking an estimated 15-20 year project to rectify almost all of the sewage problem by constructing 13 miles of underground storage tunnels.  There’s a great video of the ongoing construction here.


Philip Anderson is a founding principal at Studio Laan, a Washington, DC-based architecture and design studio.