Monday, November 28, 2016

LWV and Fracking in Virginia

Last Saturday I attended the Prince William Area League of Women Voters general meeting at the Community Library in Manassas. The topic for the day was Fracking, or more formally hydraulic fracturing, a method to release natural gas and oil trapped inside bedrock that cannot be economically retrieved with traditional methods. Advances in horizontal drilling which allows a vertically drilled well to turn and run thousands of feet laterally through the earth combined with advances in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the pumping of millions of gallons of water and laced with thousands of gallons of chemicals into shale at high pressure have increased our ability to recover natural gas from shale. Long ignored shale gas is potentially valuable. Until recently there was no economically feasible way to extract this gas. Fracking is a fiercely debated political and environmental issue.

The Virginia League of Women Voter's report was well-researched and an impartial review of the science, regulation and current status of Fracking in Virginia. Rona Ackerman of Fairfax gave an excellent and engaging presentation of the report and lead the discussion. Though I encourage you to read the report for an unbiased review of the technology and what we know about fracking, the most important take away was the status of fracking and fracking regulations in Virginia.
from DMME

Virginia has gas rich shale deposits. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the Taylorsville basin contains over a trillion cubic feet of gas. The Taylorsville basin has not been explored using newer fracking techniques so it is not known if we have the technology to exploit these deposits, yet. However, over 84,000 acres in the Taylorsville basin have been leased for 7 years by Shore Drilling.

The oldest type of hydraulic fracturing is coal bed formation fracturing that has been used for more than 65 years. The volume of water needed for hydraulic fracturing varies by site and type of formation. Fifty thousand to 350,000 gallons of water may be required to fracture one well in a coal bed formation while two to five million gallons of water injected at much higher pressure may be necessary to fracture one horizontal well in a shale formation. Virginia currently only has gas well in the coal rich Appalachian Plateau 6,000 of 8,400 existing wells were dry fracked. The existing wells are vertical wells that were nitrogen fracked. This is a completely different technology than contemplated for the Taylorsville shale deposit.
from DMME

In 2013 then Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion that stated “a local governing body cannot ban altogether the exploration for, and the drilling of, oil and natural gas within the locality’s boundaries.” However, in May 2015 current Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion that stated “Localities may use their zoning authority to prohibit “unconventional gas and oil drilling,” commonly known as fracking.” Following this opinion the King George Board of Supervisors in the Taylorsville basin voted to amend their zoning ordinance and Comprehensive Plan, prohibiting drilling within 750 feet from resource protected areas, such as rivers and creeks, as well as roads, buildings and schools, leaving only 9% of the county potentially eligible for drilling.

In 2015 the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME) promulgated New Gas and Oil Regulations. In summary the regulations would:
(i)                  amend permit application requirements to include disclosure of all ingredients anticipated to be used in hydraulic fracturing operations, certification that the proposed operation complies with local land use ordinances, inclusion of a groundwater sampling and monitoring plan, and submission of an emergency response plan; 
(ii)                require a pre-application meeting jointly conducted by the DMME and the Department of Environmental Quality before an operator drills for gas or oil in Tidewater Virginia; 
(iii)               require well operators to use FracFocus, the national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry website, to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations; 
(iv)               establish a groundwater sampling, analysis, and monitoring program before and after well construction; 
(v)                add language related to the use of centralizers in the water protection string of the casing; 
(vi)               strengthen casing and pressure testing requirements for well casings used in conventional and coalbed methane gas wells; and
(vii)             provide protection for trade secrets from public dissemination while allowing this information to be made available to first responders and local officials in the event of an emergency.”

The new Gas and Oil Regulations were submitted for final approval by Governor Terry McAuliffe last August. It is still waiting for approval and there is no timeline, but approval is expected this year. The Gas industry has been trying to delay the regulations in Virginia so that a bill tabled from last year to exempt the Gas industry from Freedom of Information Act requirements for fracking chemicals. This bill, HB1389, was carried over from last year and should not pass. It is important not only for first responders, but for citizens to know what chemicals they are potentially being exposed to. From data from FracFocus we know that 29 known or possible human carcinogens regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants were used in 650 out of 2500 fracking products. Unless you know what chemicals to look for, it is virtually impossible to test air and water pathways for every possible contaminant. Please consider calling your delegate to vote against HV 1389 this year.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Water Delivery for the Caribbean

While I have spent the late summer watching a silent drought take over my corner of Virginia, other parts of the world are experiencing much bigger droughts. The islands of the Caribbean have been experiencing drought. Their drought started early last year. The Islands are mostly dry rock formations that collect rainfall in reservoirs across the region. Without the rains, the reservoirs are being drained, forcing utilities from Trinidad & Tobago to Jamaica to ration water.

For some islands, such as Cuba, it is reported to be the worst drought in more than 100 years. And this may just be the start. Now the tiny Republic of Suriname wants to sell some of their abundant water to their neighbors. Suriname is located on the coast of South America and has a reported 151 billion M³ of fresh water flow to the ocean each year from its rivers.

Now, a company, Amazone Resources has received the rights from Suriname’s government to pump water from the mouths of the Coppename and Suriname rivers, both of which meet World Health Organization standards for water quality. The water will be filtered and treated with UV light to meet health standards. This week, a boat will tow a giant bag made from PVC-coated fabric with enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool from Suriname to drought-stricken Barbados and Curacao. The bag will float because fresh water is lighter than salt water.

Amazone Resouces has received permission to export up to 400 flex tanks a year. This is equivalent to 0.0092% of the flow of the rivers. Research has shown that removal of up to 0.129% of a river's flow can be accomplished without permanently disturbing the ecology. This will be a test run for a business to sell some of the excess water that flows to the sea from Suriname without disturbing the ecological balance. The Barbados Water Authority, which signed a memorandum of understanding for the test run but is not buying the initial shipment, said in a statement that the accord it part of its long-term plans to tackle the impact of climate change.

The total volume of water on Earth is about 1,400 million km3 of which only 2.5 %, or about 35 million km3, is freshwater. Most freshwater occurs in the form of permanent ice or snow, locked up in Antarctica and Greenland, or in deep groundwater aquifers. The principal sources of water for human use are lakes, rivers, soil moisture and relatively shallow groundwater basins. The usable portion of these sources is only about 200,000 km3 of water worldwide.

Freshwater resources are unevenly distributed, with much of the water located far from human populations. Many of the world's largest river basins run through thinly populated regions. At the continental level, the Americas has the largest share of the world’s total freshwater resources with 45%, followed by Asia with 28%, Europe with 15.5 % and Africa with 9%.

Fresh water I necessary to sustain life, but it is equally vital for food production. Seventy percent of the worldʼs fresh water resource is currently required for food production alone, yet water is also essential for industry. Every product on the planet has been produced by using water at some stage of the process. Thirty-three countries depend on other countries for over 50% of their renewable water resources: Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Cambodia, Chad, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Latvia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, Pakistan, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam and Yugoslavia.

Monday, November 21, 2016

We Trash Food While Americans Go Hungry

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we should talk about wasted food in America. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tells us that more food is sent to landfills and incinerators than any other single material in the United States. The EPA estimates that 35.04 metric tons of prepared food or consumer bought food is wasted each year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that throughout the food chain between 30%-40% percent of the total food supply or about 133 billion pounds of food worth almost $162 billion is wasted from farm to consumer.

The total amount of waste in the United States is shocking. We have to do something about this. This wasted food is particularly disturbing when you consider that in 2015, 13% of households (15.8 million) were food insecure. That means that in the United States 42.2 million Americans lived in “food insecure” households. The U. S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as not having consistent access to adequate food throughout the year. This is usually caused by poverty. People who are food insecure are simply hungry, or at risk of hunger. In the United States people go hungry every day. There are hungry people in every state and community in America, our community is no exception.

Keeping food in our communities and out of landfills helps communities reduce hunger and reducing food waste also potentially reduces methane emissions from our landfills. Food waste quickly generates methane in landfills, and 20% of total U.S. methane emissions come from landfills. In addition, the land, water, labor, energy used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of the discarded food are wasted as we throw away the imperfect and the excess.

In 2013 the USDA and EPA
first called on organizations across the food chain – farms, agricultural processors, food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants, universities, schools, and local governments – to join efforts to
  • Reduce food waste by improving product development, storage, shopping/ordering, marketing, labeling, and cooking methods.
  • Recover food waste by connecting potential food donors to food banks and pantries.
  • Recycle food waste to feed animals or to create compost, bioenergy and natural fertilizers.

Then in 2015 USDA and EPA announced the first U.S. food loss and waste reduction goal Challenge. Last week the USDA and EPA announced the inaugural group of the U.S. “Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions,” businesses and organizations who have taken up the challenge and pledged to reduce food loss and waste in their operations 50% by 2030. The “Champions” announced last week were: Ahold USA, Blue Apron, Bon Appétit Management Company, Campbell Soup Company, Conagra Brands, Delhaize America, General Mills, Kellogg Company, PepsiCo, Sodexo, Unilever, Walmart, Wegman’s Food Markets, Weis Markets and YUM! Brands.

By joining the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, organizations and businesses demonstrate their commitment to reducing food waste, helping to feed the hungry in their communities, and reducing the environmental impact of wasted food. The Challenge Partners’ inventory of activities will help disseminate information about the best practices to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste and stimulate the development of more of these practices that can be applied to businesses in the future.

It is important to remember that cutting food waste will require a sustained commitment from everyone. The USDA estimates that about 90 billion pounds of food waste comes from consumers, and costs about $370 per person per year. USDA’s “Let’s Talk Trash” focuses on consumer education, highlighting key data and action steps consumers can take to reduce food waste. Take a look at this link to see the suggestions. This is much harder because it involves millions of households changing their behavior, better managing their food shopping, storage an meal planning and using and eating leftovers. Millions of our households need to continually practice frugality in our food use. This in a nation that in 2014 produced about 258 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste with only slightly over one third of trash was recycled and composted. We have been promoting recycling since 1965 with the introduction of the recycling symbol yet we still have a long way to go.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lorton Quarry to Become Reservoir

At the end of October William Duke, President of Vulcan Materials Mideast Division, and Philip Allin, Chairman of Fairfax Water signed an agreement at a ceremony at the Griffith Water Treatment Plant in Lorton that sets the conditions for the transformation of a rock quarry into a water storage reservoir in southeastern Fairfax County.
from Google Maps

The Quarry will be converted to a reservoir in phases and continue to operate during phase 1 which will convert a portion of the quarry to a reservoir with storage of of about 1.8 billion gallons by 2035. Quarry operations will end with Phase II which will convert the remaining area to Fairfax Water reservoir with storage capacity of up to 15 billion gallons by 2085. To do this the existing quarry will be reconfigured to mine portions of Fairfax Water’s property. This will allow Vulcan to leave a “rock wall” that will segregate the quarry into the two parts. The two-reservoir Quarry reconfiguration addresses the water supply need projected to occur in the 2035-2040 timeframe.
from Fairfax Water

The Vulcan Quarry was identified as the favored alternative for meeting future water needs in the Northern Virginia Regional Water Supply Plan in 2011 and adopted by Fairfax County in early 2012. This new reservoir will be used to supplement water supply to accommodate population growth in Northern Virginia and ensure that Fairfax Water can continue to provide reliable, high-quality drinking water well into the future. 

Fairfax Water projects water need based on the most recent population and employee projections available from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Today, Fairfax Water serves nearly 2 million residents and more than 800,000 employees in Northern Virginia. Between 2010 and 2040, the population served by Fairfax Water, including wholesale customers, other communities that buy their water from Fairfax Water, is projected to increase by over 650,000 residents and nearly 550,000 employees. Fairfax Water needs to plan to reliably provide water to all.

All the regional water supply companies share the water resources of the Potomac. Fairfax Water, the Washington Aqueduct (WA) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) signed the Water Supply Coordination Agreement that established a framework for water supply planning, drought management, and resource optimization on the Potomac River back in 1982 and have worked together to manage the regional water resources since.

Every five years, the ICPRB conducts a study of projected demand and available water supply resources based on the best available information at the time- utilizes water use and demographic data along with assumptions regarding changes in water use patterns in the region. These are not certain. The ICPRB 2015 report assumes daily per capita water use will decrease by an additional 25%, incorporates various climate and weather scenarios and uses the projection of population growth provided by the Washington Council of Governments who forecast that the residential population is expected to grow by 23% and the workforce is expected to grow by 36% by 2040. They also looked carefully at the impact the climate change might have on water supply.

Historically, a key assumption was that the future flow of the Potomac River will mirror the hydraulic conditions for the past 79 years. If hydraulic conditions are changing or a 79 year period is inadequate to predict the possible extent of droughts, this could impact the availability of water. So, a couple of years ago the ICPRB engaged a study that created a model for various climate scenarios of water supply availability from Potomac Watershed to determine if the water supply would be adequate to serve the population. They used this model to examine the water supply adequacy of the current study.

The ICPRB found that the existing water supplies can meet demands of the forecasted population levels through the Year 2035, by implementing mandatory water restrictions during severe droughts. However, as the population and water demand continue to grow the current supply system including the Potomac River and all current and planned reservoirs and water storage would not be adequate to supply all needs during a severe drought even after using all the reservoirs to supplement flow and implementing water use restrictions.

This is why Fairfax Water has worked with Vulcan to develop the “two reservoir Quarry reconfiguration”, to provide interim water supply storage in 2035, as well as a significantly larger storage facility beyond 2085. With the delivery of the Northern Reservoir in 2035, Fairfax Water will be able to expand the Griffith Plant to 160 million gallons a day.  The Northern Reservoir will also provide an emergency source of supply to the Griffith water treatment plant when emergencies like chemical spills restrict the larger and newer Corbalis plant’s access to the Potomac River. This happened last year when Fairfax Water had to shut their intake to let a plume of contamination pass. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Compare Air Pollution in New Delhi to Your Home

from US Embassy Feed
Air pollution in New Delhi has been in the news. According to reports from the Times of India, air pollution levels hit 999 micrograms of small particulates per cubic meter in some areas of the capital. For comparison in 2013 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the reduction in the fine particle pollution, PM2.5, average annual allowed level to 12 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) or an AQI of 39. The 24-hr standard was recently revised to a level of 35 ug/m3 (an AQI of 99) and in truth not all cities in the United States currently meet that standard.

Last week the New Delhi smog was reported to be its worst in 17 years. The Government closed all of the city's more than 5,000 schools for three days to minimize the risk for children. In a city of over 17 million that meant that an estimated 4.41 million children missed three days of school according to the United Nations Children's Fund. The Air Quality index as measured by the PM2.5 monitoring station atop the US Embassy in New Delhi reported particulate pollution levels had fallen first to 400 then to 258 over the weekend, but the air quality is forecast to worsen again later this week.
Add caption

PM2.5 particles are a major contributing factor to lung disease. A study of children in Southern California showed lung damage associated with long-term particulate exposure, and a multi-city study found decreased lung function in children associated with long term particulate exposure. The United States particulate levels are a small fraction of the levels in the worst areas of the world-Beijing, New Delhi, Santiago (Chile), Mexico City, Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), Cairo (Egypt), Chongqing (China), Guangzhou (China), Hong Kong, and Kabul (Afghanistan).

PM2.5 particles can be either directly emitted or formed via atmospheric reactions. Primary particles are emitted from cars, trucks, and heavy equipment, as well as residential wood combustion, forest fires, and agricultural waste burning as is still common in India. The main components of particulate pollution formed when pollutants like NOx and SO2 react in the atmosphere to form particles. These particles are emitted from coal fired power plants and other combustion engines. The increase in automobiles and coal fired power plants in both India and China has exacerbated this problem in India, China and other areas of the world because particulates can travel great distances.

So, as the Indians and Chinese spew more and more pollutants and particulates which are most concentrated in their own cities but are worsening in many cities around the world. As the Indians and Chinese expand their air pollution, the United States continues to reduce ours. If you want to take a look at real time particulate pollution levels you can see what the monitors nearest your home are reporting. Long Park in Haymarket Virginia was reporting an AQI level of 2 as I was finishing this article. Long Park is about 3 miles from my house down route 15.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

5 Second Rule is Bunk

Though it was “busted” by the Myth Busters years back when they were still on the air, researchers at Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (extension), Professor Donald Schaffner and his graduate student Robyn Miranda recently put the “5 second rule” to rigorous scientific test. The “5 second rule” is the popular notion that food dropped on the floor, but picked up quickly, is safe to eat because bacteria need time to transfer.

Bacterial cross-contamination from food coming into contact with surfaces can contribute to foodborne disease. The cross-contamination rate of Enterobacter aerogenes was used as a proxy for disease carrying bacteria and measured on household surfaces of stainless steel, tile, wood and carpet. The food types were watermelon, bread, bread with butter and gummy candy. The transfer times tested were under 1 second, 5 second, 30 second and 300 seconds. Transfer scenarios were evaluated for each surface type, food type, contact time and bacterial prep; surfaces were inoculated with bacteria and allowed to completely dry before food samples were dropped and left to remain for specified periods

What the researchers found was that bacteria can transfer essentially immediately on contact with food that is dropped; and the wetter the food, the higher the risk of transfer― watermelon had the most contamination, gummy candy the least. Also, longer food contact times usually result in the transfer of more bacteria from each surface to food

All totaled 128 scenarios were replicated 20 times each, yielding 2,560 measurements. Post-transfer surface and food samples were analyzed for contamination. The researchers concluded that the longer food was in contact with a surface the in more bacterial transferred, they also found that other factors are to be considered such as the nature of the food and the surface it falls on, are of equal or greater importance. Surprisingly, they found that carpet has very low transfer rates compared with those of tile and stainless steel, the transfer rate from wood is more variable. “The topography of the surface and food seem to play an important role in bacterial transfer,” Dr. Schaffner said. “Bacteria don’t have legs, they move with the moisture, and the wetter the food, the higher the risk of transfer. Also, longer food contact times usually result in the transfer of more bacteria from each surface to food.”

The bottom line is that contamination can transfer almost immediately. It is essential to clean your working surfaces and floors regularly to prevent cross-contamination of food on your counters, and don’t eat whatever it was that fell on the floor, throw it out. Donald Schaffner is a professor and extension specialist in food science at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Robyn Miranda is a graduate student in his laboratory there. Their study appears online in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology (only the abstract is free).

Monday, November 7, 2016

You Can View High Resolution Land Use Data

For the last several years the Chesapeake Bay Program Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked with local governments and their partners in all 206 counties within the Chesapeake Bay watershed across six states and the District of Columbia. All the Chesapeake Bay watershed counties and major municipalities have gathered together information on local land cover, land use, parcel and zoning data and converted it to a consistent format so that it could be accessed and used by the EPA.

Thanks to the hard work of groups like our own Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District and the Prince William County Government local land use data was collected from over 80% of counties. In parallel with these activities, the counties and municipalities funded the development of new high-resolution data on land cover—such as impervious surfaces, tree cover and water—for the entire watershed. This work was carried out by the Chesapeake Conservancy, the University of Vermont and World View Solutions, mapped out land cover across more than 80,000 square miles at a one-square-meter resolution. This is amazing resolution. This land cover data was then combined with the information provided by the various local governments and agencies to produce a detailed land use dataset for each county.

Now the EPA has used the high-resolution mapping of land use to update and improve the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model, used to measure success against the EPA mandated Chesapeake Bay restoration activities and support local, state and regional decision making across the region. The latest version of this model, Phase 6, is currently under review. The EPA mandated a contamination limit for nutrient contamination and sediment to all the states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Washington DC. The EPA set a total limit for the entire watershed of 185.9 million pounds of nitrogen, 12.5 million pounds of phosphorus and 6.45 billion pounds of sediment per year which was a 25% reduction in nitrogen, 24% reduction in phosphorus and 20 % reduction in sediment from the 2011 levels. The pollution limits were then partitioned to the various states and river basins and counties based on the Chesapeake Bay computer model and monitoring data. The problem with the first versions of the model was the land use data and impervious ground cover data was not consistent across different parts of the model.

The pollution limits were created by a series of models of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. These computer models are mathematical representations of the real world that estimate environmental events and conditions. The models are at best imperfect, but they are nonetheless the best tool available to view the 80,000 square miles of the watershed. The Chesapeake Bay and its watershed are so large and complex, that scientists and regulators rely on computer models for critical information about the ecosystem’s characteristics and health, then use the model to assess the impact of various environmental mitigations to reduce pollution.

The earlier versions of the model had used approximately 675,917 acres for the impervious surface data and 1,885,915 acres for the pervious surface data in Virginia. A review of the EPA’s own data found that there were 1,569,377 impervious acres and 3,442,346 pervious acres in the urban areas in the Virginia segments of the model that includes all the paved and landscaped areas of suburbia. Between the 1990 census and the 2010 census when the model was developed the population of Virginia grew from 6.2 million people to 8.0 million people. The bulk of that growth took place in the urban and suburban centers of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This served to distort the model and resulted in the under reporting of pollution from impervious surfaces (like roads, buildings and parking lots). Pollutions loads for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the urban areas are calculated using a constant pounds/acre/year for impervious acres as a fixed input, and the pervious load is based on total fertilizer sales data less the impervious load. The under reported acres of housing and roadways distorted the agricultural contribution to the pollution by increasing it. Hopefully in the latest version of the model, that has now been corrected.

The datasets will be made available free-of-charge to local governments and the public over the next month or so. In addition, local governments will make available the data they collected on past land cover and land use over the last 30 years, as well as map overlays with geographic coverages of federal lands, sewer service areas, regulated stormwater areas and combined sewer overflow areas within each county. At the moment, Prince William and the rest of the Virginia counties are all still pending, but should be ready for viewing shortly at also the beta version of the Chesapeake Bay Model can be viewed at this link

from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program

Thursday, November 3, 2016

WSSC Tries New Pipes

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) provides water and sewer service to 1.8 million residents in approximately 460,000 households and businesses in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland. Established in 1918, WSSC is one of the largest water and wastewater utilities in the nation, with a network of about 5,600 miles of fresh water pipeline and over 5,400 miles of sewer pipeline. Unfortunately, over many years the maintenance and replacement of the piping systems was deferred.

Approximately 1,300 miles of the more than 5,600 water mains are more than 50 years old. Nearly 2,500 water mains are between 25 and 50 years old. Almost 1,800 miles of water main were installed in the last 25 years. The age of the piping reflects more the age of the buildout of the system than any maintenance and replacement, for decades the only pipe replacements were for failed piping. After decades of deferred maintenance water main breaks have grown in frequency to about 2,000 breaks a year. Though age is not the only factor that causes pipe failure, most of the system’s pipes were designed for an average lifespan of 70 years. Over the next 10 years WSSC projects they will have to replace over 2,000 miles of water pipe and similar amount or sewer pipes. WSSC estimates that water pipes cost about $1,600,000 per mile of pipe.

Now WSSC is introducing new pipes that feature a zinc-coating on the exterior, which protects against corrosion. This is an improvement on the previous industry standard of uncoated ductile iron pipes that are exposed to soil. The zinc coating increases the life of iron pipes. Charged zinc ions migrate to scratched areas naturally, so pipes are less susceptible to corrosion damage than those composed of other materials. Additionally, the new piping will also have a V-bio® enhanced polyethylene encasement wrap, which discourages the growth of harmful bacteria that can damage the pipe.

Traditional ductile iron pipe lasts about 50-75 years the new pipes have a projected lifespan of well over 100 years, based on experience in Europe. Zinc coating on ductile iron pipe has been in widespread use in Europe where the industry first began using zinc coatings in 1955. As a result of zinc's widespread use there, standards were both developed and widely adopted. The advances in zinc coatings over the past 60 years have resulted in a highly effective corrosion inhibiting pipe that is now also coated in a V-bio polywrap.

The wrap protects the iron from a fresh supply of oxygen, thus halting or greatly inhibiting the corrosion. The patented V-Bio prevents microbiological cells from forming that would attack the iron and deplete the zinc. It is believed that the use of V-Bio with the presence of zinc as an anode to iron will further slow the process, though field tests in the United States have so far been about 10 years. The new pipe costs slightly more than the older style pipes, but since installation is the bulk of the cost the total price per mile is estimated to increase to $1,620,000 from $1,600,000. A reasonable cost for what WSSC hopes will be decades of additional service.

Though recently, WSSC has been replacing about 55-60 miles of water mains per year that has not been enough to keep up with the aging system that suffers from decades of deferred maintenance and some problematic piping. That rate of pipe replacement would replace the water system in 101 years, but much of the system has already exceeded their design life and some pipes in the WSSC system have not been lasting as long as originally projected.

Most of WSSC was installed after World War II in the booms of the 20th and 21st centuries. Post-World War II pipes tend to have an average life in the real world of 50-105 years depending on many factors (AWWA). To extend the life of the ductile pipes they were mortar-lined. These linings were meant to prevent corrosion and increase pipe longevity. In the 1970’ steel reinforced concrete pipe with a promised life of 100 years began to be used for the giant water mains by WSSC. Unfortunately, these concrete trunk lines began to fail catastrophically decades before their promised 100-year life expectancy.

WSSC has 350 miles of steel reinforced concrete pipe. WSSC ‘s supplier, Interpace, may have produced inferior pipe- the company was successfully sued by WSSC and others and is now out of business. Nine of the WSSC’s concrete mains have blown apart since 1996. After a particularly spectacular blowout 2008 and to prevent future catastrophe, WSSC installed a sensor system along all the concrete mains that cost more than $21 million to alert WSSC of an impending failure, but unfortunately the replacement program became an emergency replacement program responding to sensors and smaller breaks. Now the new program hopes to improve this situation, but with 1,300 miles of piping over 50 years old it is likely that the number of water main breaks will get worse before it gets better. Remember most pipes break in the winter months, so be prepared for emergencies and store an adequate emergency supply of water in your home- 10 gallons per person should be a three day supply.