DC Clean Rivers Project LocationsThe construction progress of the Blue Plans Tunnel was the subject of the February 2015 NCS Section Meeting. The Blue Plains Tunnel is the first segment of the DC Clean Rivers Project; DC Water’s $2.6 billion infrastructure project designed to reduce combined sewer overflow into the District’s waterways by 96%. Two to three billion gallons of untreated combined sewer overflow (CSO) containing bacteria and trash that are harmful to the environment is discharged into Washington, DC’s waterways annually. CSOs occur during heavy rain when the mixture of sewage and stormwater cannot be contained in the sewer pipes and overflows to the nearest water body. To solve this century-old extensive problem, DC needed an engineering solution on a massive scale. Enter the DC Clean Rivers Project; DC Water’s ambitious $2.6B undertaking driven by Federal Consent Decree to construct a deep tunnel system to reduce CSOs by 96% and transport the captured flow to the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Blue Plains Tunnel is the first phase of this mega-project. Currently underway, the project features construction of five deep shafts ranging in diameter from 50 to 132 feet and Lady Bird, a 26-foot diameter tunnel boring machine (TBM), currently carving out 4.5 miles of tunnel that will dramatically improve water quality in the Anacostia River. As the largest underground construction project since Metro, the Blue Plains Tunnel marks the beginning of a new era of tunneling and underground construction in the District. DC Water is employing modern TBM technology and innovative shaft construction techniques.

James Wonneberg and Ryan Payne from the construction management team of the project presented on the methods used to construct the tunnel and associated deep shafts. James Wonneberg, P.E., CCM, is the Resident Engineer responsible for construction management of the Blue Plains Tunnel since 2011. Ryan Payne, P.E., is the Field Engineer responsible for geotechnical and tunneling aspects of the project including analyzing tunnel boring machine (TBM) performance, construction oversight of the tunnel and shafts, and the deployment of DC Water’s real-time TBM data monitoring and reporting software.

Mr. Wonneberg provided the background on how a combined sewer system works the steady decline in the health of the  district’s waterways, and the development of DC Water’s long-term control plan to address the Consent Decree to reduce combined sewer overflows. Mr. Wonneberg described how construction of a 23-foot diameter, 15-mile long tunnel would capture water during heavy rainfall events and thus reduce future combined sewer overflows.

Mr. Payne elaborated on the details of constructing of the Blue Plains Tunnel and the associated deep shafts. He presented an overview of the different methods used to construct the slurry walls, base slabs, and the final liners of the shafts. Mr. Payne also described Lady Bird, the earth – pressure-balance TBM currently constructing the tunnel. The TBM’s production cycle, which includes mining, spoil removal, and installation of the 6 foot precast tunnel rings was reviewed.

For additional information about the Blue Plains Tunnel and the other projects associated with the longterm control plan, please visit the DC Water Webpage on the DC Clean Rivers Project.

Presentation by James Wonneberg, PE, CCM and Ryan Payne, PE.

What is ASCE-NCS?

Welcome to the website of the National Capital Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a professional society for civil engineers.  ASCE was founded in 1852, represents 130,000 members of the civil engineering professional worldwide, and is America's oldest national engineering society.

The National Capital Section was founded in 1916 and currently has more than 3,100 members.  The section is located in Region 2 (link to region 2: http://region2.asce.org/). The National Capital Section serves the District of Columbia; the counties of Montgomery and Prince Georges in Maryland, except College Park in Prince Georges County; the counties of Fairfax and Arlington, and City of Alexandria in Virginia. The National Capital Section's mission includes:

  • To advance the professional knowledge and improve the practice of civil engineering for our members and those we serve.
  • To advocate for our profession with those whose actions affect us, and to educate those whose actions and responsibilities could benefit from a better understanding of the contributions of civil engineers.
  • To improve our community through effective community outreach programs, local involvement and educational efforts.

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