There are still miles to go — 4.5 to be exact — but on Tuesday, May 23, senior officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts gathered to celebrate an influx of state and federal money for the project, which will replace two underground aging wastewater pipes running from Carson to San Pedro.
So far, the Clearwater underground tunneling project, which will carry cleaned and treated wastewater, has completed 2.5 miles and is now under North Gaffey Street, near the softball diamonds just north of Home Depot.
It will make a turn on Capital Drive and end at Royal Palms Beach, anticipated to happen in 2025.
The celebration this week specifically marked the project receiving $441 million in Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans and $127 million in State Revolving Fund loans.
Robert Ferrante, chief engineer and general manager of the L.A. County Sanitation Districts, said the project addresses several issues that are looming. Most basically, it will replace two existing pipelines from the 1930s and 1950s, respectively, that are operating at near capacity. The path of the pipelines also crosses two earthquake fault lines.
The system handles wastewater for more than 5 million residents and includes seven wastewater treatment plants.
In 2012, the Sanitation Districts’ Board of Directors approved the projects to build an 18-foot diameter, 7-mile tunnel with seismic upgrades throughout. At the start of work, the entire project was estimated to cost some $630 million.
The tunneling is being done by a modern tunnel boring machine at depths ranging from 30 feet to 450 feet. Overall construction began in 2019. Actual tunneling started in late 2021.
The tunneling is expected to be finished in 2025, with all construction wrapping up in 2027.