Finding solutions, setting goals
June 10, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Cognizant of the need to maintain good stewardship over its lands and waterways for the sake of its human and animal inhabitants, Aberdeen Proving Ground is undertaking aggressive measures to ensure quality and clean water for generations to come.
Due to decades of reduced Department of Defense funding, maintenance of the supporting structures of the installation's waste water systems fell by the wayside. Today, due to heightened awareness of the environmental impacts from the installation's former weapons and chemical missions and increasing environmental standards, these same systems must meet rigid state and federal standards.
One strategy to meet these standards is privatization; the transfer of ownership, operation, care and maintenance to a contractor or public utility. The process has been accomplished with gas and electric suppliers with much success. Essentially, privatization means the government sells the infrastructure but not the land.
This is the first in a series of articles that will address the installation's Clear Water Plan. Along with structured requirements like the Army's Utility Privatization Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Federal Facility Compliance Agreement, the DoD and Chesapeake Bay Action Plans, the series will explore the events that brought it to this point; the advantages of privatization, and other Army and DoD plans in place to meet goals laid out by state and federal agencies.
One solution starts with privatization but it doesn't end there, according to Charles DePase, a mechanical engineer with APG's Directorate of Public Works.
"We've been working this issue since the 1990's and our hands have been tied budget-wise. Now, we're moving ahead with the resources we need. Our primary concern is the safety and health of consumers, protection of the surrounding environment, and that the installation is enhanced by what privatization can provide."
DePase said the heavy rain experienced in recent storms brought the situation to a head when Edgewood's aging wastewater treatment plant released partially treated water. It's important to note, he said that the release consisted mostly of rainwater, not raw sewage. Still it served as a startling reminder of the urgency of need to move forward.
"Privatization means that the infrastructure such as sewer lines, manholes, lift stations and the wastewater treatment plant facility is contracted to new owner-operators," he said. "They have the ability and means to maintain a high standard and increase the quality of the system over time."
While the Edgewood WWTP is not privatized the Aberdeen system has been since 1999, DePase said, noting the Edgewood facility is being done as a separate project outside of privatization.
"We've realized the big benefits of privatization in the Aberdeen area. It has provided much better drinking water quality and much cleaner waste water going out to the Bay," he said. "Now we have the means to accomplish that in the Edgewood area."
As the installation moves ahead, each step will be overseen by state and federal agencies. Already it has met federal requirements to complete the design of the WWTP upgrades by May of 2013 and to begin construction of the new WWTP by March 2014, in accordance with a construction contract issued in September 2013. The construction upgrades at the plant must be complete by September 2015.
"We are on schedule and expect to meet compliance requirements," DePase said. "The Army is doing this as a distinct project to meet our environmental responsibilities."