Eliminating Sewage Overflows in DC

Latest Updates

EPA Permit for DC Sewage Treatment Plant Fails to Protect the Potomac and Public Health

On November 1, 2017, Potomac Riverkeeper Network sent comments to EPA calling for major changes to the Clean Water Act discharge permit for the Blue Plains Wastewater plant in Washington D.C. While the DC government has invested heavily to upgrade this facility and reduce untreated sewage discharges from its combined sewers, the draft permit still fails […]

Understanding City Stormwater & Sewage Systems

The clouds, dark and chilling, hid the light from the night except for the whipping static of bolts of lightning. The city sounds of police sirens and car alarms were muffled by the powerful thunder. Standing underneath the Phillips Collection balcony looking out to Dupont Circle, the rain drops, and occasional penny-sized frozen pellets, fell […]



In 2005, the EPA ordered DC Water to implement a Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) to reduce or stop combined sewage overflows (CSOs) into DC waterways. This plan included the construction of huge underground holding tunnels designed to prevent raw sewage from entering the Potomac, Anacostia, and Rock Creek during heavy rainfall. However, in 2014 DC Water announced their intent to change the plans direction—replacing most tunnel construction on the Potomac River and Rock Creek Park with green infrastructure (rain gardens, green roofs, etc.) that would reduce stormwater flows. Our goal is a strong commitment from DC Water to reduce CSOs and improve water quality through proven technologies such as grey infrastructure (underground holding tunnels), coupled with green infrastructure, that will dramatically reduce and nearly eliminate CSO pollution altogether.

Status Update: With no clear performance targets set in the revision, or supporting evidence of that green infrastructure would successfully manage DC’s massive CSO’s, in July 2015, we filed comments opposing this plan and requested a progress report from DC Water once further evidence becomes available. Read our comments.