Lawmakers take action after Problem Solvers investigation into sewage overflow into James River

Richmond has 25 spots where untreated feces and storm water flows in the James when heavy rain overwhelms the sewer system.
Posted at 1:34 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-04 17:24:48-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- When state Senator Richard Stuart (R - Fredericksburg) first introduced a bill to force Richmond to get on a timeline to stop sewage from going into the James River, the city tried to kill the bill, according to Stuart.

But, he refused, and then a CBS 6 Problem Solvers investigation educated the public about the city's stormwater overflow system that dates back to Civil War days.

Richmond has 25 spots where untreated feces and storm water flows in the James when heavy rain overwhelms the sewer system.

In a two-week time period, we saw it happen twice when it rained at an outfall in Shockoe Bottom.

Between 2014 and 2018, more than 11 billion gallons of untreated wastewater went into the James, according to records from the city.

After the investigation aired, the public took a deep interest in the issue with many saying they didn't realize it was happening.

Now, about two weeks later, the House and Senate passed Stuart's bill that sets a timeline for Richmond to stop the nasty mix from going into the James by 2035.

Stuart said he expects the Governor to sign the bill into law because he said it was actually the Governor's office that got involved and brokered a deal to get a timeline put into place.

The city previously told CBS 6 that the cost to fix the issue would be around $400 million dollars.

To ensure the city has adequate funding to get this done, the bill requires the General Assembly and Governor to annually consider the cost and progress of the work.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner issued the following statement:

“This legislation is great news for everybody who spends time on the James River. The new timeline to complete the city’s work in upgrading its outdated combined sewer system is a major step towards preventing pollution and reducing human health risks.

“The City of Richmond has already been working hard to address sewer overflows. While this legislation would accelerate these efforts, the burden shouldn’t fall solely on Richmond residents. The state must also invest in fixing these James River overflows in future budgets.

“We thank Senator Stuart for introducing this bill, Senators McClellan, Morrissey, Dunnavant, and other regional lawmakers for support, as well as the City of Richmond for its innovative stewardship of America’s Founding River. We look forward to this legislation being signed into law by Governor Northam.”