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Park Service Releases Stench Solutions

Sometimes it's good to vent when the situation stinks.

Area residents will get the chance to do so next week when the National Park Service (NPS) presents its environmental assessment for a plan to control the odor emanating from the Potomac Interceptor sewer line.

LONG ASSOCIATED with the C&O Canal, the putrid and powerful odor is actually hydrogen sulfide emitting from vents in the Potomac Interceptor, a sewer line serving Montgomery County, as well as the District of Columbia and Loudoun and Fairfax counties in Virginia.

Dozens of vents in the Potomac Interceptor run from Georgetown to Great Falls, and another series for several miles above Swains Lock.

"You don't notice that the vents are what it's emanating from unless you're particularly observant," said Burr Gray, president of the Cabin John Citizens Association.

Doug Faris, Superintendent of C&O Canal National Historical Park, has received his share of complaints about the odor.

"The largest number of complaints come from repetitive users of the canal who live in the vicinity of the canal and have had to put up with [the smell] for a long time," said Faris.

THE PARK SERVICE WILL HOLD a public meeting to present the environmental assessment for a long-term odor control plan at Rockwood Terrace on Thursday, Oct. 3, 7-9 p.m.

"We're very interested in this project," said Faris, who said the park service has been working closely with the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, which controls the massive sewer line, on the odor control issue in the past two years.

The Potomac Interceptor includes three odor control stations between Great Falls and the District line. However, most recent measures to control the odor have been intended for the short-term.

"Short term measures were passive carbon filters and gel odor neutralizers," said the Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) engineering department in a recent e-mail to the Almanac. "They were placed in service in the spring of 2000, remain in service, and will remain in service until the long term odor facilities are complete."

FOUR SITES along the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the Clara Barton Parkway have been proposed in WASA's long-term plan for odor control.

The sites will include blower units, sealed vents and intake-only vents. Faris said the sites will inevitably be visible to park visitors, but one benefit is that there could be rest rooms associated with the locations.

"They will be visible in some locations," said Faris. "We're trying to minimize the impact of the facility. … We spent a lot of time trying to find locations for them."

The facilities outlined in the plan are scheduled to be on line by late 2004, said the WASA engineering department.

"However this schedule has depended, and continues to depend on the National Park Service Environmental Assessment process."

"We feel generally confident that the [proposed] devices will work if properly maintained," said Faris.

The National Park Service hosts a public meeting on the environmental assessment the odor control plan for the Potomac Interceptor at Rockwood Terrace, 11001 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, on Thursday, Oct. 3, 7-9 p.m.