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3.8 billion gallons of polluted stormwater stopped from spilling in Anacostia River despite rains

The tunnel was expected to be tested again Thursday and Friday by storms spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Michael.

WASHINGTON -- The biggest underground public works project since Metro has stopped at least 3.6 billion gallons of sewage-contaminated stormwater from spilling into the Anacostia River in its first seven months of operation despite being tested by a season of unusually heavy rain.

At least 150 tons of trash has also been captured, according to figures from DC Water.

The success of the DC Clean Rivers Project's Anacostia River Tunnel has outstripped all projections since the first seven miles between RFK Stadium and the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant went on-line in March of this year, according to project director Carlton Ray.

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"It's mind-boggling how much sewage we have caught so far," Ray said.

Interim Anacostia Riverkeeper Trey Sherard said his environmental organization has been encouraged by the results.

"Despite near record breaking rains in 2018, we have documented several days where the river would have been swimable if DC law allowed it," Sherard said. "That's the first time we've ever seen that."

The tunnel was expected to be tested again Thursday and Friday by storms spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Michael.

Sherard reported a significant drop in the amount of trash lining riverbanks since March and believes the tunnel project must have played a role.

The DC Clean Rivers Project is costing $2.7 billion dollars. By 2030 it will include 18 miles of gargantuan tunnels designed to capture sewage and trash contaminated storm water before it spills into Rock Creek, the Potomac River and the Anacostia River.

The 23-foot diameter tunnels and a number of large chambers store contaminated water during storm events and release it in controlled fashion for treatment later.

The project is being partially paid for by a surcharge on DC Water's customers.

For more information on the Clean Rivers Project visit: dcwater.com/cleanrivers.

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