Carnegie Mellon University
April 18, 2016

Gomez Rivera is Making D.C.’s Waterways Cleaner

Gomez Rivera is Making D.C.’s Waterways Cleaner Each year, billions of gallons of sewage and stormwater from Washington D.C.’s sanitary systems overflow untreated into the capital’s surrounding waterways. However, if a massive infrastructure project called the Clean Rivers Project is successful, the overflow escaping from the systems will be reduced significantly.

Alejandro Gómez Rivera (MS '13) is part of an engineering team working on a segment of the larger project, which is being commissioned by the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority. Gómez Rivera is building a 12,300-foot-long tunnel, called the Anacostia River Tunnel. The tunnel is the second of four tunnels being built to dramatically reduce the overflow that makes its way into the city’s Anacostia River, Potomac River and Rock Creek, as well as their surroundings.

As part of the team building the tunnel, Gómez Rivera’s main duties include collecting information from a tunnel-boring machine (TBM) that is carving out the tunnel 100 feet below the surface. The TBM measures 26 feet in diameter and has more than 300 parameters providing real-time data.

Gómez Rivera also uses data from geotechnical instruments that monitor the integrity of existing infrastructure that are in the vicinity of the construction at, or near, the surface.

He collaborates with other members of the team to visualize and interpret the data collected from the instruments and the TBM. With the data, the team can efficiently operate the machine and make choices regarding the completion of the project. The data also allows them to make decisions affecting the safety and integrity of the already existing infrastructure.

Before studying at CMU, Gómez Rivera studied engineering management at Northeastern University as a Fulbright Scholar. He has also garnered about eight years of professional experience managing engineering projects, including transportation, hydraulic, industrial and military infrastructure systems.

It was at CMU that he gained deep exposure to data-driven analytics and sensing technologies for engineering.

“I’ve been given the great opportunity to combine my project management experience with these new skills, especially on data management and sensors … which still aren’t common within the civil engineering field,” he said.

He added that the skills he developed at the university have enabled him to assume many of his responsibilities as a tunnel engineer.

Gómez Rivera began working on the Anacostia River Tunnel project a few months after graduating from CMU in 2013. The project is expected to be completed in late 2017.

When the Clean Rivers Project is finished, sewage and stormwater will flow through the tunnels into a modern wastewater treatment plant, instead of untreated into the city’s waterways. Overflow will be reduced by about 96 percent and new state-of-the-art infrastructure will be in place for generations to come.

Gómez Rivera is one of the many people working to making that vision possible.