We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Anyone who has plied the C&O Canal just beyond Georgetown or—-hell—-anyone who has driven across Chain Bridge with the windows open knows about the city’s premier sewage-stench problem. It hovers over these swanky neighborhoods along the canal and never seems to go away. It’s heavy with that hydrogen sulfide nastiness of rotten eggs plus feces with a side of urine. And it has been bothering some pretty motivated civic activists for decades.

The culprit is the Potomac Interceptor, a huge pipe that snakes along the river that bears its name. It carries about 50 million gallons of shit-and-stuff per day. The trademark of the Potomac Interceptor is its vents—-they spew the noxious air that sometimes makes adjacent ‘hoods uninhabitable.

This fall marks a big moment in the fight to eliminate the odors: The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) is deep into a bidding process to build some carbon scrubbing stations along this sewer pipe, the better to treat the gases that come up through the vents and scandalize canal users and area residents. The scrubbers are going to be little brick structures equipped with some cool air-treatment technology. They have their work cut out for them.

Michael Caputo of Reasonable Shade of Green, wonders whether a few high-tech huts will do the job:

But will DC-WASA’s idea really solve the problem? Or will the scrubbers pump new chemical compounds into the air of surrounding neighborhoods? And will the pipe continue to crumble and soon break, sending hundreds of millions of gallons of human waste into the C&O Canal?

Caputo’s site features a video on this entire yucky affair. One activist on the video tells of the reaction of WASA officials when neighbors first approached the organization with complaints about the gases: “It’s a sewer. It smells. What do you want from us?”

Creative Commons Attribution License Courtesy of magerleagues.