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EPA seeks comment on revised Washington Aqueduct permit

Release Date: 12/17/2002
Contact Information: Roy Seneca 215-814-5567

Contact: Roy Seneca 215-814-5567
PHILADELPHIA– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a revised permit for the Washington Aqueduct water treatment plant that would set stricter limits on the discharge of processed water and treated sediments into the Potomac River and Rock Creek.

EPA will seek public comment on revisions which would bring the Washington Aqueduct in line with discharge practices used by water treatment plants nationwide.

“After a first round of comments from citizens, environmental groups, government agencies and public officials, we have modified the draft permit for the Washington Aqueduct with new safeguards to strengthen environmental protection of the waterways that pass through our nation’s capital,” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

Located in the District of Columbia, the Washington Aqueduct is a drinking water treatment facility that supplies water to about one million residents in Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia.

The revised draft permit is available for public comment from Dec. 19 through Jan. 30. The permit will be issued to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the facility, and to its water customers – the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, the City of Falls Church, Va., and Arlington County, Va.

Along with the draft permit, EPA is also proposing enforcement actions that would provide a timetable for the Washington Aqueduct to comply with the new effluent limitations while allowing the Corps of Engineers to continue to provide safe drinking water to customers.

EPA originally presented a draft permit for the facility in March. Following public input, the original draft was revised to include new limits on the concentration of sediments that can be discharged. The new limits on sediment concentrations (no more than a monthly average of 30 milligrams/liter of discharge, or a daily maximum of 60 milligrams/liter of discharge) mean that no solids will be visible in the water. The permit also sets concentration limits for aluminum and prohibits chlorine from the Aqueduct’s discharges.

The draft permit also prohibits any discharges from February 15 through June 30 when fish are spawning and hatching. While scientific studies have indicated that the Washington Aqueduct’s sediment discharges have a negligible effect on the Potomac River, fisheries experts have cautioned about potential sensitivity of eggs and larvae of spawning fish.

This permit will require capital improvements to reduce the amount of sediments that can be returned to the river. The sediments accumulate from the purification of Potomac River water at the Dalecarlia and McMillan treatment plants. The concentration of solids in the discharge under the new permit will be at least 99 percent lower than under the current permit.

Finally, the draft permit requires a series of studies, including one to determine if there are any shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species, near the Aqueduct’s outfalls.

EPA is accepting written comments on its draft permit until Jan. 30. The draft permit and a fact sheet are on EPA’s website at, Hard copies are on file for public review at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 901 G Street, N.W., Washington, DC. A public hearing on the draft permit is planned for 6 p.m., Jan. 21 at the Sibley Hospital in Washington, DC.