Over the next 12 years, DC Water is required by federal mandate to spend $2.7 billion upgrading DC’s inadequate stormwater infrastructure to decrease chronic flooding and the sewer system overflows. This project will be financed primarily through fees on the water bills of DC residents—by 2019 the average monthly water bill in DC is projected to exceed $100. WIN is organizing a citywide coalition of environmentalists, job-seekers and ratepayers to demand that this massive investment of public money deliver multiple benefits for the city including: clean water, living wage work and more green spaces.
Background: Parts of Washington DC use a combined sewer system, where a single underground pipe carries both stormwater and sewage to Blue Plains for treatment. When there are heavy rains these pipes overflow, causing flooding, sewer back-ups in low-lying areas of the city and sending millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Anacostia, Rock Creek and Potomac rivers each year. In 2005, DC Water reached a legal agreement with the EPA to reduce frequency of these sewer overflows by 96% by 2025. To meet this goal DC Water initiated the Clean Rivers Project a $2.7 billion upgrade of the city’s stormwater infrastructure.
DC Water is planning to use a mixture of gray technologies (deep underground tunnels) and green technologies (rain gardens, green roofs, pervious pavers etc.) to meet the 2025 goal. WIN leaders support an approach that delivers maximum benefit for DC residents by dramatically reducing sewer overflows and flooding, increasing the number of living wage green jobs created and expanding the amount of green space in all areas of our city. Currently, there is no comprehensive plan to use the $2.7 billion Clean Rivers Project to put residents in high unemployment areas of DC to work. Based on results of similar programs, a $20-40 million investment in green infrastructure could create 300 full time living wage jobs. DC Water is currently considering diverting as much as $900 million into green infrastructure work between 2013 and 2025.
WIN has proposed that DC Water General Manager George Hawkins adopt a Stormwater Jobs Pipeline model to capture this work. The Stormwater Jobs Pipeline would link referral/soft skills training organizations, hard skills training providers and stormwater infrastructure related contracts to create a clear pathway for job-ready DC residents into stormwater infrastructure work. However, to succeed, the Stormwater Jobs Pipeline must be implemented immediately to capture the millions of dollars of stormwater infrastructure work proposed for 2013 and 2014.
On Earth Day 2013 (April 22) 800-1000 WIN leaders representing all wards of DC will gathered at Temple Sinai in the Rock Creek watershed to call for clear accountability measures around decreased sewer overflows and increased green space in all wards of the city.
On May 20, 2015, DC Waters’ George Hawkins, DC Mayor Bowser, and the EPA signed a Memorandum of Agreement to allow for an investment $90 million in green infrastructure (rain gardens, green roofs, etc). The green approach will create more jobs than a strictly gray approach (only builds enormous storm tunnels). The MOA also includes a jobs agreement alongside the environmental standards that mandates local hiring, worker training, recruitment and more. The modified agreement will be one of the first in the country to include job goals alongside environmental goals.