- In fall 2002, both County Councils approved in WSSC's capital budget a feasibility study for a submerged Potomac River intake pipe to supply water for its Potomac Water Filtration Plant (WFP).
- WSSC's Potomac WFP produces approximately three-quarters of the water used by its 1.6 million customers in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.
- The submerged channel intake feasibility study began in summer 2003 and should be complete in spring 2006.
- WSSC is not seeking increased water withdrawals from the river with this submerged channel intake, but is seeking higher quality source water.
- The study will address possible locations, construction methods, costs, environmental impacts and outreach activities.
- If constructed, the intake will be built using environmentally sensitive methods.
- The top of the submerged intake will be a minimum of 2.5 feet below historic low-flow water levels.
- A submerged channel intake will not obstruct recreational river activities or permanently harm aquatic life.
- WSSC's top priority is enhance public health by providing customers with the best possible quality water: a submerged channel intake will provide access to a cleaner, safer, more stable raw water supply.
- At WSSC, we are proud of our efforts to continually produce safe, clean drinking water - water that meets or surpasses strict federal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. In fact, WSSC has never had a drinking water quality violation in its history.
- A submerged channel intake will allow WSSC to continue to meet ever-increasing EPA Safe Drinking Water requirements.
- Enhancing the safety and quality of our nation's drinking water supplies was the catalyst for an amendment to EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act that required each state to conduct a Source Water Assessment (SWA) for each drinking water intake.
- Funded by the Maryland Department of the Environment, the SWA for the Potomac Plant was completed in May 2002.
- Key findings of Potomac SWA:
- A submerged channel intake would allow the Potomac WFP to access a cleaner, more stable source water supply
- Issues impacting WSSC's existing shoreline intake:
- Watts Branch causes changes (increased sediment, solids, microorganisms) and instability (pH, alkalinity) in raw water quality particularly after storm events.
- Occasional clogging from River debris, leaves and ice.
- Submerged channel intake would mitigate these issues.
- Based on these findings, a main recommendation of the Potomac SWA was that "serious consideration" should be given to a submerged channel intake.
- Other studies (including the Potomac Water Filtration Plant Facility Plan, WSSC, September 2002) also came to the same conclusion.
- A submerged channel intake will reduce treatment and solids handling costs. (Estimated annual cost-savings = $800,000.)While valuable for long-term environmental improvements, best management practices in Watts Branch cannot be relied upon in the near future for significant source water enhancement.
- It will take decades for improvements in the Watts Branch watershed to impact the raw water at the Plant Intake.
- WSSC plans to use briefings, its website, quarterly customer bill inserts, fact sheets and media communications to inform and update officials, customers and other stakeholders about the project.
- Input will be solicited from all interested parties on an ongoing basis.
- Following study completion in spring 2006, WSSC will seek concurrence of County Councils on recommendations of feasibility study.