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Council OKs Intake Pipe Study

Construction will require approval.

Little changed when the County Council’s Transportation and Environment (T&E) Committee voted to approve the study of a “submerged channel intake pipe,” desired by Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC).

The study had been approved last year, so the committee’s action was mainly review. The major change was the addition of language clarifying that the council must review the completed study and approve moving forward with any design and construction.

The study is slated to begin this summer and is expected to take a year to complete.

WSSC says the pipe, expected to run about 500 feet into the river at a cost of $15 million, will increase water quality, reliability of the water supply and security.

“Submerged Channel Intake mitigates all of these issues,” said Richard Shagogue, chief engineer with WSSC.

WSSC is attempting to increase outreach in order not to have the sort of problems Fairfax County, Va. had when constructing their “Mid-river” intake pipe. “It’s key that we work with our stakeholders,” Shagogue said.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have reservations about the proposal.

“You’re really trying to run away from the pollution,” said Ed Merrifield of the Sierra Club. Sierra Club believes that problems with water quality can better be addressed by working to stop the amount of pollution that goes into the Watts Branch. “You might see changes in [sediment] numbers, if you really became aggressive, in a year,” Merrifield said.

The Committee considered two options for approval, one included projected design and construction costs in WSSC’s projected budget for 2005 and 06, the other removed those costs. Noting that including the costs does not approve the construction of a pipe, they chose to include the costs. “To remove design and construction costs now gives an artificial picture,” said Council member George Leventhal (D-At Large). Council member Tom Perez (D-5) wanted to remove the cost projections, but Committee Chair Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) sided with Leventhal in the two to one vote.