ALEXANDRIA, VA-Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew), Alexandria’s wastewater authority, is seeking the community’s input to name its 250-ton tunnel boring machine (TBM). The TBM, currently being manufactured in Schwanau, Germany, will bore through 100-foot-deep soil to construct the 12-foot-wide, 2-mile-long Waterfront Tunnel — ultimately preventing millions of gallons of combined sewage from polluting the Potomac River, Hooffs Run, and Hunting Creek. This endeavor is a momentous step in building for the future of Alexandria’s waterways.
Name it Before You Launch It for Good Luck!
Typically, a TBM is named before it is launched, as a sign of good luck. TBMs have historically carried a female name, as underground workers looked to Saint Barbara for protection. Keeping with this long-standing tradition, AlexRenew has nominated the names of six groundbreaking women whose outstanding contributions to Alexandria, the environment, or the engineering and construction fields have paved the way for countless others. They include:
- Alice, in honor of Alice Morgan, an Alexandria groundbreaker who was the first woman and African American to serve on the city’s Planning Commission, a public body crucial to approving projects like RiverRenew.
- Ellen, in honor of Ellen Swallow Richards, a visionary in the field of ecology, who’s pioneering studies led to the establishment of modern water quality standards and wastewater treatment facilities. She was also the first female member of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers.
- Elsie, in honor of Elsie Eaves, who developed industry-standard indexes still widely used by engineers today to estimate construction costs for projects like RiverRenew, and the first female associate member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
- Hazel, in honor of Hazel Johnson, the mother of environmental justice who helped pass federal legislation to address adverse environmental effects on minority populations.
- Marguerite, in honor of Marguerite Williams, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in geology, and one of the first scientists to recognize humanity’s impact on erosion and flooding through her studies in the Anacostia River basin.
- Mary, in honor of Mary Edmonson, who, with her sister, escaped slavery in Alexandria and became an icon in the abolitionist movement through protests against the Fugitive Slave Act.
“Each of these women positively influenced our history, and we look forward to honoring them as we implement this historic environmental project for our city,” said Karen Pallansch, AlexRenew General Manager.
The winning name will be featured prominently on the TBM’s 15-foot-tall shield and unveiled in Spring 2022 when the TBM arrives in Alexandria. Voting is now open to the public at riverrenew.com/tbm-naming. Be sure to vote for your favorite by Sept. 15, 2021.
Follow along with construction progress via riverrenew.com.