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Alexandria to declare local holiday for boring machine

Hazel, the tunnel boring machine for AlexRenew’s RiverRenew Tunnel Project, is named after environmental activist Hazel Johnson. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Anyone who goes to City Council meetings knows there’s a long list of proclamations and recognition of various holidays, but there’s a new one on the docket for next week: Hazel the Tunnel Boring Machine Day.

A proclamation scheduled for the meeting on Tuesday, April 2, recognizes April 13 as a local celebration of the machine that did the heavy lifting for RiverRenew project.

RiverRenew, the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history, is a state-mandated project dedicated to reducing the combined sewage outflow into the Potomac River caused by Old Town’s antiquated sewers.

Hazel carved a 12-foot-wide tunnel under Alexandria that will capture sewage mixed with rainwater and transfer it to AlexRenew’s wastewater treatment plant, preventing 130 million gallons of harmful combined sewer pollution from entering the Potomac River and Hunting Creek.

The machine completed the dig on March 21, though work still remains for the project.

AlexRenew is hosting a Mining Completion Open House on Hazel the Tunnel Boring Machine Day (April 13) at 501 N. Union Street.

The proclamation reads as follows:

WHEREAS, the City of Alexandria recognizes that Alexandria’s waterways are essential
to our community and must be protected for future generations; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law in 2017 requiring the
remediation of Alexandria’s four combined sewer outfalls that date back to 1860’s; and

WHEREAS, the City of Alexandria partnered with AlexRenew to develop a plan to
address combined sewer overflows, which includes a massive underground tunnel and
associated facilities; and

WHEREAS, the RiverRenew program was implemented to capture combined sewage
and return it to AlexRenew’s wastewater treatment plant; and

WHEREAS, a tunnel boring machine was designed and manufactured to construct a 12-
foot-wide, 2.2-mile-long tunnel; and

WHEREAS, the tunnel boring machine was dedicated to Hazel Johnson, who is
affectionately known as the mother of environmental justice for her commitment to a cleaner and
safer environment for future generations; and

WHEREAS, Hazel and her dedicated crews began constructing the Waterfront Tunnel
on November 1, 2022: and

WHEREAS, Hazel and team completed the tunnel on March 13, 2024; and

WHEREAS, Hazel paved the way for a brighter future for the Potomac River and its
surrounding communities.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JUSTIN M. WILSON, Mayor of the City of Alexandria,
Virginia, and on behalf of the Alexandria City Council, do hereby proclaim that April 13, 2024,
shall be celebrated as:

“HAZEL THE TUNNEL BORING MACHINE DAY”

in the City of Alexandria and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the City
of Alexandria to be affixed this 2nd day of April 2024.

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