Aggregates Industries Quarry Could Protect D.C. Water Supply

WTOP in Washington, D.C., is reporting that local water officials are looking into the possibility of utilizing Aggregates Industries’ Travilah Quarry in Rockville, Md., to provide water storage for the local D.C., Maryland and Virginia water utilities in the event that water from the Potomac River would become unavailable or undrinkable.

The Washington Aqueduct would only have a 24- to 48-hour water supply available if the Potomac were ever to suffer a major contamination event, according to general manager Tom Jacobus. “It could happen very innocently, by accident, or worse, intentionally,” he said. “It could be very damaging to us for a period of time.”

The Potomac River is the sole water supply for the District of Columbia, Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, and the primary water supply for two other local water utilities.

“If it were filled with water today, right now it would have about 8 billion gal. of water,” said Jacobus. “You could produce water for about 14 days, and we believe that’s a reasonable amount of time that whatever made the river unavailable to us could be cleaned up, and we could get back to the river.”

The 330-acre quarry was started in 1955. It’s current maximum depth is 450 ft. It has an expected lifespan of approximately 60 more years.

“All quarries have a finite life span,” said Richard Freedman, director of land and environment for the Mid-Atlantic region for Aggregate Industries. Freedman said the quarry company has allowed water utility consultants to conduct scientific testing on its property. Jacobus and Freedman said it was premature to discuss how the water utilities might use or purchase the Travilah Quarry.

Vulcan Quarry in Virginia to Become Water Storage Reservoir

Over the next 70 years, a Vulcan Materials quarry in Lorton, Va., will be transformed into a water storage reservoir.

Fairfax Water and Vulcan Materials Co. recently signed an agreement that’s been in the works since 2000. It involves a phased conversion of Vulcan’s quarry to a Fairfax Water reservoir ultimately capable of holding up to 17 billion gal. of water, which is needed as the population continues to grow.

“Between 2010 and 2040 the population served by Fairfax Water, including both retail and wholesale areas, will increase by over 650,000 residents and nearly 550,000 employees working in the area,” said Philip Allin, chairman of Fairfax Water.

The reservoir will be developed in two stages:

  • By 2035: the northern part of the quarry will be transferred to Fairfax Water after quarry operations stop in that portion of the property.
  • By 2085: the remainder of the quarry will be transferred to Fairfax Water after quarry operations cease entirely.

Three utilities – the Washington Aqueduct, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and Fairfax Water – are the primary suppliers of the region’s drinking water. They work together on supply management through Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (Co-Op). The Co-Op systems produce an average of 370 million gal. of drinking water per day, with the capacity to produce 600 million gal. per day during peak demand.

The Co-Op uses surface water as the primary source of drinking water. The Potomac River provides approximately 78 percent of the water used in the region to about 4.5 million people. The remaining 22 percent is drawn from the Occoquan Reservoir in Virginia and the Patuxent River in Maryland, with a nominal amount drawn from groundwater.

The region uses two reservoirs for daily use and as two backup supplies during droughts when the Potomac River stream flow is low. The new reservoir will provide significant additional storage in case of a regional drought.

“There are a lot of positives that will come out of this agreement for current and future generations,” said Vulcan Materials’ William Duke. “The region has a continued supply of essential construction materials – crushed stone – required to build and maintain our economy and it provides for another basic resource – water – that is also required to sustain our economy. This is a great example of a public-private partnership that will bring benefits to the community and future generations.”

Related posts