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WSSC Spokesman on Terminating Water Pipe Upgrade in GHI

WSSC spokesman John C. White shares his response to a Feb. 2 Patch story on WSSC's termination of an infrastructure upgrade project.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) takes seriously its responsibility to always put customers first. In that spirit, we want to present aspects and facts about the GHI situation that were not included in the original story.

WSSC representatives began meeting with representatives of the Greenbelt Homes, Inc. (GHI) in 2007 to discuss how best to proactively replace aging water mains in the area. Those are the lines that generally run underneath the streets. In addition, WSSC planned to replace the service lines, which are the connecting lines from the water main to the house. The current water mains and service pipes are more than 75 years old and are reaching the end of their useful life. The existing water lines in the GHI community were installed in 1937 by another company and do not meet current WSSC or industry standards.

The WSSC took over the water and wastewater system in 1958. That agreement required WSSC to maintain the lines to the meters, which were located at or near the houses. The meter locations were not acceptable when WSSC acquired the system in an ‘as is’ condition. WSSC is not disregarding the agreement, and will continue to provide maintenance as required per the agreement, but WSSC is not moving ahead with new construction.

Any new construction will be done according to existing standards and industry practices, and the meters will be installed near the street, not next to the houses. Current WSSC design guidelines dictate that water mains be a minimum of 4-inches in diameter, and have a separation or setback of at least 15 feet from the closest structure or building. Replacement of the existing mains, which range from 1.5-inch to 8-inch in diameter, in their current locations would violate those requirements. It is also impractical due to the sheer number of trees, shrubs, sheds and fences located over or adjacent to these same mains. If the system were reconstructed as proposed, WSSC would continue to maintain the pipes up to the meters, but the meters would be located further from the houses, requiring GHI to maintain the connections between the meters and homes. This responsibility is standard for all other WSSC customers. In the last four years GHI rejected several designs for a new system. These designs would have minimized disruption to the homeowners and provided improved water service, while still meeting minimum industry standards. It is not possible to meet standards keeping the meters in the current locations.

Although considerable time and money has been devoted to this upgrade project, GHI stated on October 26, 2011, it was unwilling to assume ownership and maintenance of the new service connections that would result from a modified design. The connection from the home to the water meter would be about 40-to-48-feet per home. WSSC would pay for all of the materials and construction associated with the new services. The new service pipes would have a lifespan of several decades and would not likely require any maintenance during that time.

WSSC General Manager/CEO Jerry N. Johnson said in a Jan. 6, 2012, letter to GHI, “The Commission does not maintain service connections on private property and an increase in overall service connections to be maintained by GHI is an unavoidable consequence of the relocation of the existing mains from their current locations adjacent to the houses.”

“Considering this impasse,” Johnson said, “and the considerable time and resource commitment to date, WSSC has decided to terminate the GHI infrastructure upgrade project and focus its rehabilitation efforts on other communities in the service area.”

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