Berwyn District Civic Association Thursday, February 19, 2009

1. Agenda Item 1. Introductions. Jerry Anzulovic, President of the BDCA, called the meeting to order.

2. Agenda Item 2. Presentation by Gary J. Gumm, Chief Engineer of WSSC. Mr. Gumm gave a brief overview of the history of the WSSC. Its first 3 commissioners first met, in Hyattsville, in 1918. It was founded because of the typhoid and cholera waves. WSSC serves Montgomery and Prince George’s County. It has 3 essential roles: (i) public health (drinking water, bathing water, laundry water, etc.), (ii) public safety (e.g., fire hydrants), and (iii) the economy (water for restaurants, etc.). Two-thirds of the sewage in WSSC’s region goes to the Blue Plains plant. WSSC pays about 46 percent of Blue Plain’s budget. WSSC serves 1.8 million people. Its infrastructure is aging. There are 2 million miles of pipe nationwide; WSSC has 5,500 miles of water pipe, and 5,300 miles of sewer pipe. There was a good documentary on PBS, produced by the Pennsylvania PBS station and Penn State, on our water and sewage system. In February 2007, WSSC had 479 water main breaks; in 2008, it had 1,700; and in 2007, it had 2,100. There were two 10-inch breaks this past January. The one on River Road got a lot of attention. When there’s a break, WSSC pumps even more water, to keep the pressure up. There were 34 million gallons lost the day of the River Road break. The pipe is PCCP (prestressed concrete cylinder pipe) with a steel cylinder inside. Ross construction did the repair work for the River Road break, at a cost to WSSC of $1.3 million. WSSC had to replace a 10-inch line on Berwyn Road on January 19th. 1,294 miles – or 23 percent – of WSSC’s total miles of pipe is 50+ years old. 1,741 – or 31 percent – is under 25 years old. 2,494 miles – or 45 percent – is 25–50 years old. The average life expectancy of pipes is 74 years. The new pipes are ductal iron pipes. In WSSC’s FY 09 budget, there is an 8 percent rate increase. $900 million a year passes through WSSC’s hands – that money is spent locally, so it’s good for the economy. The FY 09 budget includes 27 miles of water main replacement cost and 51 miles of sewer main rehabilitation. WSSC would like to replace at least 60 miles a year. One reason for the rate increase is that the cost of phosphoric acid went from $600/ton to $2,700/ton. WSSC could take out the phosphoric acid to save money. In any case, WSSC’s rate increases over the years have not kept up with the rate of inflation. One mile of water pipe replacement costs $1.4 million. One mile of sewer main rehabilitation costs $1.1 million. One chronic problem with the sewer lines is the grease that people deposit clogs the sewer systems. WSSC is attempting to educate the public to not pour grease down the drains with its “Can the Grease” campaign. Mr. Gumm said his office would send BDCA something that we could put in our newsletter about “canning the grease.” Along those lines, if you think you see someone in a truck dumping grease down a manhole, try to get the license plate number and call the WSSC emergency number. Numbers for WSSC are the following – customer service is 301-206-4001; to report emergencies, call 301-2064002.

WSSC is trying to save money where they can. They have a 10-year contract with a wind farm in Pennsylvania. They’re also modernizing their computer services, which should help save money as well. They currently have 1,400 employees, but expect to have fewer in the future because of demographic shifts and a changing workforce (i.e., fewer people are willing to do that kind of work).

WSSC is looking at putting this area on its priority list – it’s being considered for the FY10 design program, which means it would go out for bidding, if approved, in FY11 or FY12. WSSC tries to coordinate its future plans with people who pave roads, so that it doesn’t come through an area and have to tear up a road for pipe work just after someone has just paved the road.

WSSC is initiating a customer notification system whereby you can sign up to get e-mails or text messages alerting you to water main breaks within a certain radius, for example.

Mr. Gumm was asked about the pinhole leaks in copper pipes that was plaguing this region for awhile. WSSC added a chemical to the water that cost $699,000 in one year – that probably helped seal the pinhole leaks.

Mr. Gumm was asked if people are putting too much down garbage disposals. He said that currently isn’t a problem – bugs in the water in the sewage treatment plant eat the garbage.

  1. Agenda Item 3. Branchville Fire Department. Chuck from the Branchvill Fire Department came by to see the community. Ambulance calls are going up, whereas fire calls are going down. When people call 911, they get a fire/ambulance service – they don’t realize they’re volunteers. On weekends, everybody’s a volunteer. Volunteers are 95 percent of the apparatus. They’ll come out for a cat stuck in a tree. Call 301-883-7711 to reach them. They have an open house every year and usually get 3,000 people come.

    1. Agenda Item 4. City Councilman Bob Catlin. Jack Perry is being treated for a health condition. It is hoped that he will make a full recovery soon. Starview Plaza is going to move forward fairly quickly. The East Campus development, on the other hand, is on hold because of the dismal economy.

    2. Bob had just returned from a sector plan meeting. Development for the area just north of Greenbelt Road should include the houses on Branchville. There are radical plans for that whole area. There would be direct access from Route 1 and University Boulevard.
  2. Agenda Item 5. Mayor Steve Brayman. The police have made a lot of arrests in College Park lately. They arrested someone who allegedly had committed a rash of armed robberies.

The budget talks are coming up. It’s going to be tight but not as tight as in some places. Jim Rosapepe is “taking care of us.” When there’s an opportunity for College Park, he makes sure to tell the City about it. The Washington Post plant will start closing down in September.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 pm.

Meeting Attendees:

not available

Liesl Koch, Recording Secretary, BDCA.