Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007

WSSC considers plan for new sewage pump station

Advisory panel worries opening of Natonal Harbor next year will overwhelm existing station

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In response to recent floodings into Broad Creek, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission officials are considering whether to install a new waste water pumping station in Fort Washington, said John C. White, WSSC’s chief spokesman.

The Broad Creek Historic District Local Advisory Committee forwarded a proposal to WSSC in October, reporting that relying solely on a Broad Creek Waste Water Pumping Station that is almost 40 years old could be catastrophic when the National Harbor opens next year.

‘‘We are studying the proposal and we have not yet responded to that,” White said.

WSSC has proposed to upgrade the station’s generators to address power outages that have affected flooding. But Richard Krueger, chairman of the Broad Creek Historic District Local Advisory Committee, said the WSSC’s plan poses significant damage to recently authenticated archeological resources in the historic district dating back more than 12,000 years.

‘‘We have proposed alternately that a second pumping station be constructed to handle sewage generated in the Henson Creek basin east of Route 210 that will feed into the main Piscataway treatment plant,” Krueger said.

‘‘This would allow the Broad Creek Pumping Station to efficiently pump the anticipated increases in volume from National Harbor and new development west of 210,” Krueger said.

White said the National Harbor Waste Water Pumping Station, which opened earlier this year, has pumped sewage to the Broad Creek station. The proposed station to the east of Indian Head Highway would allow for extra water in inclement weather from the east of 210.

The WSSC faced a lawsuit after Hurricane Isabel in 2003 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland Department of Environment and four citizen organizations for violations of the Clean Water Act. The WSSC on July 26, 2005, announced a settlement and said $350 million will be spent over 14 years to improve the sewer system.

Currently, WSSC project manager John Maholtz is seeking contractors to design and build a system of generators at the Broad Creek station to deal with power outages. The deadline for bids is Dec. 21.

The existing Broad Creek station, which was built in 1968, services 31 square miles in Fort Washington, Oxon Hill and Temple Hills. It is expected to receive an additional 2.3 million gallons of sewage during dry weather and 6.4 million gallons in peak wet weather once the National Harbor is fully operational.

Krueger said the total cost for a new pumping station is close to what the WSSC said it has budgeted for Broad Creek over the next five years.

‘‘It would solve all possible problems with the Broad Creek pumping station for now and the future, but it might be very expensive,” said Sean O’Day, a resident of the Indian Queen Estates on the shores of Broad Creek.

Area residents who are working to make the historic district a livable community helped in the alternate pump plan idea during brainstorming sessions. Civil and sanitary engineers also were involved in drawing up the plan, Krueger said.

Outflows have been a problem in recent years. Nearly 80 million gallons of untreated sewage called sanitary sewer outflows drained into Broad Creek over the past four years.

The latest sewage outflow occurred Oct. 27 when nearly one million gallons of sanitary sewer outflows was pumped into Broad Creek after a storm.

Twelve untreated sewage releases to Broad Creek were observed since 2003. Many of the overflows were because of power failures, according to the executive summary of the WSSC facilities plan.

‘‘Our homes stand to lose value [because of the flooding],” O’Day said. ‘‘We are really frustrated.”

The diamond-shaped historic district, which sprawls 460 acres at the bottom of a valley, got its historic status in 1985. St. John’s Episcopal Church, Harmony Hall and the Want Water ruins all are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. There also are remains of at least three Native American villages in the historic district, Krueger said.

Alfonso Narvaez, chairman of the Prince George’s Historical and Cultural Trust, attributed the problem to developments over the past 40 years that he said have taken away much of the land’s ability to absorb the water.

‘‘Originally, in the 1960s it was all farmlands and now it’s subdivisions and shopping centers,” Narvaez said.

‘‘You get millions of gallons of water that flood the stream bed within the historic district during rains. This in turn overwhelms the system, because the sewage system wasn’t designed to handle that kind of flow of water.”

E-mail Ahmar Mustikhan at