DEP brings Water Back to a Section of the C & O Canal

May 3, 2021
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Water Supply Project for the Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility (RRF)

On May 19, 2020, the County/North East Authority (the “Team”) received notification from GenOn Mid-Atlantic LLC (“GenMA”) that the coal fired operation at the Dickerson Generating Station would be shut down on January 14, 2021. This action would relieve GenMA of its obligation to provide the Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility (RRF) with water or access to water from the Dickerson Generating Station’s water discharge flume.  Based on this notification, the Team had a total of 241 days to access, install, test, and activate a new water source for the RRF.

The RRF is the County’s primary Municipal Solid Waste management facility.  The RRF converts between 20,000,000 and 24,000,000 pounds of waste to energy each week and a dependable water supply is critical to the RRF operation.   Any lapse in RRF operations would have a detrimental impact on the residents of the County.  The Team had 2 options – 1. Build a new river intake structure on the Potomac River, or 2. Forge an agreement with GenMA to utilize the existing river intake structure.  Building a new river intake was estimated to cost $10-12 million and take 12-24 months to permit and construct.  With the January 14, 2021 deadline looming, the Team determined that forging an agreement with GenMA was the most time and cost-effective solution. The Team began discussions/negotiations with GenMA to use a portion of the existing river intake structure and install new water supply infrastructure for the RRF. The Authority also assumed operation and maintenance of the intake structure.

 

The Authority retained ARM Group to provide and implement a design to utilize the GenMA intake structure. ARM and their subcontractors McKim and Creed and Bowen Engineering developed a plan to decommission and remove two 5,500 gallon per minute (GPM) GenMA owned water pumps, drain and disconnect an existing 78” water intake pipe that runs from intake structure, under the C&O canal, to the coal facility, then install new pumps, valves and piping to connect the new water supply lines to the existing RRF water piping.

ARM and its subcontractors removed two behemoth 5,500 GPM water pumps and replaced them with two 1,600 GPM energy efficient variable speed pumps to provide primary and backup river water intake pumps.  The 78” intake pipe was the conduit for a new 12” river water intake pipe, a 6” discharge pipe, and multiple conduits for electrical and communications wiring and controls.  New piping had to exit the 78” intake pipe and make a 90⁰ right turn to meet up with the existing RRF underground intake and discharge piping a few hundred feet away. 40’ Sections of 12” and 6” HDPE pipe were heat fused together to make a single pipe without couplings for each of the straight runs of pipe.

Construction began on 9/23/2020 and went as smoothly as could be expected.  Exceptional weather allowed construction to progress at a steady pace.  As the January 14, 2021 deadline loomed closer, the construction team became more confident the project would be completed on time.  In the last week of the project, several critical milestones were achieved.  On 1/12/2021, electric power from the RRF was switched on and the new pumping system, seals, and lines were tested.  On 1/13/2021 the permit to operate was received from MDE.  On 1/14/2021, the new water supply system was activated and GenMA shut down their water supply system on 1/15/2021.

 

The Dickerson Generating Station was built in 1958, and has supplied water to the Dickerson, MD Section of the C & O Canal National Park since then.  This is the only watered section of the C & O Canal within 70 miles.  The C&O Canal provides a unique ecosystem habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and is extremely popular family recreation area.

Without water from the Dickerson Generating Station, this historical and environmental treasure would run dry.  The Team agreed that the new pumping system would continue to supply water to the C&O Canal.  As part of the project, the project contractors designed an electronic valve system to regulate the flow of water to the Canal. Installation of the valve and final connection to the Canal will be completed shortly.

The typical timeline for a project of this size and significance is 6 to 12 months. The January 14, 2021 hard deadline created complexities and difficulties well beyond the typical time constraints common on any construction project.  Employees and contractors worked extended hours and over multiple holidays to ensure that the deadline was met.  Even with two water flow interruptions for piping and electrical service switchovers, RRF operations were not affected during the project. Thanks to the diligence and hard work of everyone involved, the entire project from system design to the new system providing water was completed in less than four months. The dedication, cooperation, and teamwork  demonstrated by the stakeholders made this project a success.

Letter from Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park Offices on the re-watering of the Canal near the RRF Plant.

 

April 13, 2021

 

To our valued partners in Montgomery County,

 

Thank you for your efforts to rewater the section of the C&O Canal near Dickerson, Maryland. As you

know, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was once a water-filled canal over 184 miles in length, but

today we have less than 25 miles of watered canal.

While the two-mile section of watered canal near Dickerson isn’t long in length, it is the only

watered section of canal for seventy-five miles of the park between Williamsport and Georgetown.

This provides a great reminder to visitors of the original purpose of the canal and brings back the

beauty of the canal in operation.

This watered section of canal is a main point of interest for the Montgomery County Dickerson

Conservation Park. It provides a unique and safe fishing opportunity for families that don’t want

to take young anglers near the river with its muddy banks and swift currents. This watered canal

section provides a fishing location that is shallow with slow moving waters and an abundance of

small to medium size fish for family enjoyment.

Your commitment and desire to help us keep this section of canal watered is heartening and is very

much appreciated by myself and our park staff, volunteers, and visitors.

Please let me know if our park can be of assistance to you in the future. 

Again, I appreciate your efforts and I wanted to reach out and thank you each for your help. 

 

Thank you,

TINA CAPPETTA

Superintendent

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

 

 



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