Sanitary Infrastructure

The Sanitary Infrastructure Division implements the City’s Sanitary Sewer Master Plan and is responsible for planning level engineering related to sanitary sewer capital projects throughout the City.

Page updated on Jan 15, 2021 at 4:34 PM

The Sanitary Infrastructure Division is responsible for the following:

  • Planning level engineering encompassing over 240 miles of sanitary and combined sewer within the City
  • Development and implementation of the City’s 10-year Sanitary Sewer Capital Improvement Program
  • Coordination with the City’s Department of Project Implementation related to design and construction of sanitary sewer capital projects
  • Coordination with Alexandria Renew Enterprises on the RiverRenew Program for the combined sewer system
  • Review of development and redevelopment plans and in order to ensure adequate sewer capacity to accommodate growth and identify when upgrades to sewer infrastructure are required to serve new development
  • Ensuring that development projects located within the CSS comply with the City’s CSS Management Policy for development/redevelopment

What's New

Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) Program

The City has developed a Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) program to reduce the amount of FOG introduced into the sanitary sewer system, which can lead to sewer back-ups and sanitary sewer overflows into the environment. This program was initiated in 2019 and included outreach to food service establishments (FSEs) on how to best control FOG from entering the sewer system due to cooking and other food preparation activities.

As part of the City’s program aimed at reducing FOG into the sanitary sewer system, City staff is proposing that the City Code be amended to provide FOG requirements for owners of FSEs. Discharge of FOG is currently prohibited in the City Code, but the amended ordinance will provide additional clarification on FSE requirements, City’s authority to inspect FSEs for FOG, compliance schedules, and penalties for non-compliance. The schedule for adoption of the amended ordinance by City Council is:

  • First Reading and Introduction: October 6, 2020 City Council Legislative Meeting
  • Second Reading and Public Hearing: October 17, 2020 City Council Public Meeting

The amended ordinance will be available here, approximately two weeks before the October 6 meeting. For any questions about the ordinance, please contact Suzanne Salva at 703.746.4059.

What is FOG and where does it come from? 
A:  FOG (Fats, Oils and Grease) are by-products generated from food preparation and cooking; including liquid and solid cooking oil, meat fat, shortening, sauces and dairy products.

Why is FOG a problem? 
A:  FOG in sewers can cause blockages in the sanitary sewer collection system and cause sewer backups and overflows.

What can FSEs do to prevent FOG from entering sewers? 
A:  Installation of grease recovery devices including grease traps and interceptors, using best management practices of scraping food wastes into the trash, regular maintenance of grease recovery devices and training kitchen staff.

Why is the City updating its ordinance related to FOG?
A:  A new section (Subdivision D of City Code Title 5, Chapter 6, Division 3.1 – Pretreatment of Wastewater) specifically addresses FOG for both new and existing food service establishments.  The updated section clarifies FOG management requirements, clarifies the City’s authority to inspect for FOG, provides minimum maintenance and record keeping requirements; provides a compliance schedule and clarifies civil penalties.  

Will my food service establishment be inspected?
A: FOG inspection of food service establishments is currently on hold due to COVID-19.  Inspections will not resume until the risk of COVID-19 is low.  Inspections will continue to focus on education.

How can I get in compliance? 
A: The City FOG inspector will provide guidelines for getting in compliance and reducing or eliminating FOG from entering the plumbing. City FOG inspector will check if food service establishments have proper grease control devices and are using and maintaining them correctly. Facilities that do not have grease control devices will be required to install them. Inspectors will also check that establishments have procedures for handling FOG and cleaning grease control devices.

What if I don’t get in compliance? 
A: Establishments that fail to comply with FOG management policies and continue to discharge FOG to the City sewers may be required to install additional grease-removal equipment or be fined.

RiverRenew Program for the Combined Sewer System

River ReNew Logo The City’s combined sewer system date s back to the 1800s and comprises approximately 540 acres located in the Old Town area. During most wet weather events, combined sewage (mixture of wastewater and stormwater runoff) discharges through one of four combined sewer outfalls into receiving waterways. In April 2017, the Virginia General Assembly passed a new law requiring the remediation of these outfalls by July 1, 2025. The City, working with Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew), submitted to a Long Term Control Plan (Plan) to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) in 2018. This Plan calls for the construction of an underground tunnel system to bring combined sewage to the AlexRenew wastewater treatment facility, thus significantly reducing both the number and volume of combined sewer discharges into City waterways. As of July 1, 2018, VDEQ has approved the Plan and the City has transferred ownership of the combined sewer outfalls to AlexRenew. AlexRenew is implementing as part of its RiverRenew Program.

AlexRenew, in cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS), has released an Environmental Assessment (EA) that evaluates the impacts of the RiverRenew project with respect to the environment, cultural resources and community. The NPS released its Finding of No Significant Impact on April 14, 2020.

To find out more information about the RiverRenew program, please click here. 

City Council–AlexRenew Board Combined Sewer Project Workgroup

Joint  webbox 2 sewerIn order to facilitate partnership between the City and AlexRenew and to provide a liaison for input and feedback, on June 26, 2018, City Council passed a resolution to establish the City Council–AlexRenew Board Combined Sewer Project Workgroup. The workgroup includes two members of City Council, appointed by the Mayor, and two members of the AlexRenew Board. The purpose of the workgroup is to review and guide the plans, design, implementation, costs and financing of the CSO construction project with the intent of minimizing community impacts and maximizing community benefits. The most recent workgroup meeting was held on Thursday January 7, 2021.  To find out more information about the next workgroup meeting, please click here

Read more about the City Council–AlexRenew Board Combined Sewer Project Workgroup.

RiverRenew Stakeholder Advisory Group 

Established on September 22nd City Council Legislative Hearing, Resolution 21-0163 was unanimously passed, establishing a new Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) for RiverRenew. Building off the foundation from previous SAGs, this group will monitor construction progress on the Tunnel System Project, the largest infrastructure project in Alexandria's history. 

AlexRenew is currently seeking nominations for the group of citizens (9 total) representing neighborhoods, businesses, and various interests who commit to being active and engaged in the stakeholder process. The next Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting will be held on Thursday, February 18th, 2021 at  7 PM.  The meeting will be held virtually and more information can be found here

Read more about the RiverRenew Stakeholder Advisory Group. 

Old Town Sewer Assessment and Rehabilitation Program

This project provides for the condition assessment of all sewers in the in the Old Town area (including the combined sewer area) of the City and remediation of structurally deficient sewers and sewer structures. This project will be completed in several phases. The first phase will begin in March 2019 and will consist of physical inspections of all manholes and inlets in the Old Town area. This phase of the project is anticipated to last approximately 12-18 months. The second phase begin in March 2020 and will include inspection of all sewers in the northern half of the Old Town area. Temporary no parking signs will be posted in work areas where access to these structures are needed to complete the inspection. 

Read more about the Old Town Sewer Assessment and Rehabilitation Program or contact Lu Zhang at 703.746.4289.

Citywide Infiltration and Inflow Remediation Program

Over the past two decades, the City has implemented a program to address excessive infiltration and inflow into sanitary sewers throughout the majority of the City. During wet weather, infiltration and inflow can result in sanitary sewers operating over capacity leading to sewer back-ups and release of pollutants into City waterways. sewers box4To date, the City has spent approximately $30M addressing infiltration and inflow by rehabilitating over 60 miles of sanitary sewer and repairing close to 3,200 manholes.

The City is in the process of implementing a Sanitary Sewer Asset Renewal Program, which will continue the City's program of inspecting and rehabilitating the City's sanitary sewer system. A total of $33 million has been programmed over the next 10 years as part of the City's Sanitary Sewer Capital Improvement Program. Inspections are anticipated to begin in early 2021 and will be conducted in areas subject to sewer back-ups during extreme wet weather events.

Read more about the Infiltration and Inflow Program or contact Suzanne Salva at 703.746.4059 for information about work completed to date. For information about the upcoming Sanitary Sewer Asset Renewal Program, contact Erin Bevis-Carver at 703.746.4154.

Sanitary Sewer Master Plan

 The City has developed a Sanitary Sewer Master Plan (Sewer Plan) to provide the City with a summary of its sanitary sewer assets and existing programs, and future needs corresponding to forecasted growth. The Sewer Plan was approved by Planning Commission and City Council for adoption as a chapter to the
sewers box5
City’s Master Plan in February 2013. The City is currently in the process of updating the plan for approval in Spring 2021 following outreach to residents, businesses and the development community. 

Read more about the Sanitary Sewer Master Plan or contact Erin Bevis-Carver at 703.746.4154 for more information.

Sanitary Sewer Geographical Information System (GIS)

There are over 240 miles of sanitary and combined sewers located within the City. Information about these sewers are available to the public on the City’s GIS Sewer Viewer.
sewers box6The Sewer Viewer displays the sewer network, and includes information such as pipe diameters, flow directions and manholes. 

What Can You Do To Help Protect the Sewer System?

We can all make a difference in helping to protect the sewer system. Sanitary sewer systems and wastewater treatment facilities are designed to collect and treat dirty water that has been used for toilet flushing, bathing and showering, washing clothes and dishes and other normal residential, business and institutional purposes. However, when certain items enter the sanitary sewer system, sewers can become clogged leading to sanitary sewer back-ups and sewer overflows into the environment. Below are some simple actions you can take to help protect the sewer system: Grease buildup in sewer

  • “Can the Grease”. DO NOT dispose of grease and oils into any sink or drain. Instead pour grease into a can, cool the can in the freezer, and then discard in the trash.
  • Wipe grease out of pots and pans with a paper towel prior to washing. Place paper towels in the trash.
  • Minimize use of garbage disposals as many foods are cooked or contain additional oils. Use strainers on sinks to catch food scraps and dispose of in the trash.
  • DO NOT flush non-degradable materials down the toilet. These include items such as so-called “flushable” wipes, paper towels, condoms, and personal hygiene items (tissues, feminine care products, Q-tips, etc).  Instead place these items in the trash.
  • DO NOT flush medications down the toilet. Flushing medications into the sewer system pose a hazard to water quality. Instead, mix them with substances like kitty litter or used coffee grounds, place mixture in a seal-able bag, and place in a secured trash can. Alternatively, you can return these medications during Drug Take-Back Days or at permanent disposal locations. To locate a permanent disposal location, please visit the U.S. Department of Justice's Diversion Control Division  website.
  • Report any sanitary sewer issues to the City by calling 311 or 703.746.4311.