Outfall Relief Sewer SE – Washington DC


In Spring 1939, the DC government used funds from the Public Works Administration (PWA) to award contracts for the Outfall Relief Sewer project, a large sewer line to run from the Poplar Point Pumping Station to a point near the Blue Plains Disposal Plant (today’s Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant).

The Diamond Construction Company was awarded a contract for $423,116 to build one section of the line, while the Wagner-Larsen Construction Company contracted to build a second section for $293,049.

Work on the Outfall Relief Sewer started on May 17, 1939, and was completed in mid-1940. This project was part of a large-scale New Deal program to significantly reduce pollution levels in the Potomac River and its tributaries.

The Outfall Relief Sewer was meant to run parallel to an existing sewer line and provide additional capacity for the delivery of wastewater to Blue Plains (relieving a bottleneck problem at the Poplar Point station).  Specifically, this supplemental line would start in the vicinity of South Capitol Street SE and Howard Road SE (on the east side of the Anacostia River), run south under Bolling Airfield (today’s Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling), and then connect to the existing line at a junction point just north of Blue Plains.

The attached map from the Washington Evening Star shows the course of the Outfall Relief Sewer.  But the map appears to make a mistake by confusing the “Sewage Pumping Station” (pre-New Deal) on the west side of the Anacostia River with the Poplar Point Pumping Station on the east side.

The survival of this sewer is uncertain, though likely, and that is known only to the staff of the DC Water and Sewer Authority.

Project Details

Federal Cost Local Cost Total Cost Project #'s

Source notes

Eight School Projects Lost To D.C. Under P.W.A. Quota,” Evening Star, September 29, 1938, p. B-1 (accessed February 2, 2020).

Pollution Fight to Cost $5,477,000,” Sunday Star, October 2, 1938, p. A-8 (accessed February 2, 2020).

D.C. Paves Way For Depollution,” Evening Star, October 26, 1938, p. A-7 (accessed February 2, 2020).

Sewer Contracts Given Two Firms,” Evening Star, April 29, 1939, p. A-18 (accessed February 2, 2020).

Park Sewer Project Bids Asked By City Heads,” Evening Star, May 27, 1939, p. A-2 (accessed February 2, 2020).

Sewer Tunnel is Being Blasted Through Rock Under M Street,” Evening Star, July 17, 1939, p. B-1 (accessed February 2, 2020).

It Isn’t An Earthquake,” Sunday Star, December 3, 1939, p. 3 of “Gravure Section” (accessed February 2, 2020).

Auxiliary Sewer Section Inspected for Acceptance,” Evening Star, April 2, 1940, p. B-1 (accessed February 2, 2020).

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on February 26, 2020.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Washington, DC

Location notes: General / approximate location marker

Coordinates: 38.841188, -77.003658

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