Innovation
Early History
WATER FILTRATION
In 2000 B.C. India, water was stored in copper vessels, exposed to sunlight and filtered through charcoal to make it safer.

By 1500 B.C., the ancient Egyptians applied alum to water for particle settlement, they understood the principle of coagulation.
In 400 B.C., the Greek scholar Hippocrates, for whom modern medicine’s Hippocratic Oath is named, understood the healing powers of water. He also used a cloth bag to strain boiled rainwater to eliminate bad smells.

Around 312 B.C., the Romans built aqueducts for water supply and sewage removal.

Little advancement to water treatment during Europe’s Dark Ages (500 – 1500 A.D.).
In the early 1800s, people believed masks and aromatic herbs might protect them from cholera. Some believed breathing miasmas (foul odors) transmitted disease from person to person.

In 1804, a municipal water treatment plant opened in Paisley, Scotland, with horse and cart delivery of water. Pipes were installed three years later.
In 1835, chlorine was first used in drinking water to control foul odors. In the 1890s, American municipalities started constructing slow sand filters for water treatment.
In the early 1900s, slow sand filtration was replaced with rapid sand filtration. Later, it was discovered that the filters work best if the water was treated first by coagulation and sedimentation. Click here for more fun factsFrom 1918 to 1923, Abel Wolman, a sanitary engineer from the Maryland Department of Public Health, worked with chemist Linn Enslow in developing refinements to water chlorination procedures. WSSC
WASTEWATER TREATMENT
In 2500 B.C. India, street ducts and canals transported public water and sewage from toilets in every house.

In 1700 B.C., a Greek palace in Crete featured separate canals for water supply and wastewater, as well as flush toilets.

In 1500 B.C., public and private toilets led to canals alongside the Indus River in Pakistan.
In 500 B.C., ancient Rome’s main sewer carried waste from public and private toilets to the Tiber River.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe experienced the Dark Ages from 500 to 1500 A.D. with a decline in sanitation as people returned to unsanitary disposal methods at all levels of society. These disposal methods included open defecation, open trenches and chamber pots.
Click here for more fun factsFrom the 1500s to 1800s in Europe, epidemics occurred because of increased population densities and rivers turned into running sewers. In the United States during this same period, people used privies and outhouses, with waste discharged into yards, streets, gutters and open sewers. In Europe and the United States during the 1800s, privy vaults and cesspools were used to drain wastewater into surrounding soil.
Towards the 1900s, both Europe and the U.S. developed centralized wastewater collection in urban areas but disposed of the untreated waste into rivers and streams — sources of drinking water. WSSC
Early History
WATER FILTRATION: 2000 B.C. - 1500 A.D. WASTEWATER TREATMENT: 2000 B.C. - 1500 A.D.
In 2000 B.C. India, water was stored in copper vessels, exposed to sunlight and filtered through charcoal to make it safer.

By 1500 B.C., the ancient Egyptians applied alum to water for particle settlement, they understood the principle of coagulation.
In 400 B.C., the Greek scholar Hippocrates, for whom modern medicine’s Hippocratic Oath is named, understood the healing powers of water. He also used a cloth bag to strain boiled rainwater to eliminate bad smells.

Around 312 B.C., the Romans built aqueducts for water supply and sewage removal.

Little advancement to water treatment during Europe’s Dark Ages (500 – 1500 A.D.).
In 2500 B.C. India, street ducts and canals transported public water and sewage from toilets in every house.

In 1700 B.C., a Greek palace in Crete featured separate canals for water supply and wastewater, as well as flush toilets.

In 1500 B.C., public and private toilets led to canals alongside the Indus River in Pakistan.
In 500 B.C., ancient Rome’s main sewer carried waste from public and private toilets to the Tiber River.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe experienced the Dark Ages from 500 to 1500 A.D. with a decline in sanitation as people returned to unsanitary disposal methods at all levels of society. These disposal methods included open defecation, open trenches and chamber pots.
WSSC
WSSC

1800s

Early History

2000 B.C. - 1500 A.D.

WATER FILTRATION: 1800s WASTEWATER TREATMENT: 1800s
In the early 1800s, people believed masks and aromatic herbs might protect them from cholera. Some believed breathing miasmas (foul odors) transmitted disease from person to person.

In 1804, a municipal water treatment plant opened in Paisley, Scotland, with horse and cart delivery of water. Pipes were installed three years later.
In 1835, chlorine was first used in drinking water to control foul odors. In the 1890s, American municipalities started constructing slow sand filters for water treatment.
Click here for more fun factsFrom the 1500s to 1800s in Europe, epidemics occurred because of increased population densities and rivers turned into running sewers. In the United States during this same period, people used privies and outhouses, with waste discharged into yards, streets, gutters and open sewers. In Europe and the United States during the 1800s, privy vaults and cesspools were used to drain wastewater into surrounding soil.
WSSC
WSSC

1900s

Early History

1800s

WATER FILTRATION: 1900s WASTEWATER TREATMENT: 1900s
In the early 1900s, slow sand filtration was replaced with rapid sand filtration. Later, it was discovered that the filters work best if the water was treated first by coagulation and sedimentation. Click here for more fun factsFrom 1918 to 1923, Abel Wolman, a sanitary engineer from the Maryland Department of Public Health, worked with chemist Linn Enslow in developing refinements to water chlorination procedures.
Towards the 1900s, both Europe and the U.S. developed centralized wastewater collection in urban areas but disposed of the untreated waste into rivers and streams — sources of drinking water.
WSSC
WSSC

Pipe Technology

At its inception, WSSC leaders began buying whatever small systems existed in its service area. Early systems included wooden pipes. For the next half century, WSSC used cast iron when laying new pipelines. To meet the need of the booming population, WSSC laid more than 400 miles of water main pipes and nearly 400 miles of sewer lines by 1938. Pipes now have a zinc coating covering the pipes’ outer layer, which extends the life of the pipes leading to a better return on the investment and also to prevent water main breaks.

“We’re replacing 60 miles of pipe and that’s more than any other utility across the United States,” General Manager and CEO Carla Reid said. “That’s a very aggressive [infrastructure improvement] plan.”

A worker displays a cross-section of pipes showing the buildup of sediment.

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BURNT MILLS PLANT

When completed in 1936, the Burnt Mills plant was state-of-the-art for its time. It featured all-steel concentric circles for chemical application, coagulation settling and filtration. The design included a Morse filter, named after WSSC’s Chief Engineer Robert Morse who designed the system, which was widely replicated and used throughout the world. The improvements in capacity and water purification of the Morse filter proved significant.

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BRIGHTON DAM

In 1939, WSSC determined the need for a dam on the Patuxent River. Given the country was just recovering from the Great Depression and about to join an international war, the construction of the dam was a courageous step. Deemed absolutely neccessary, WSSC secured funding through a water bond and on Memorial Day 1944, the Brighton Dam officially opened, followed months later by the new Patuxent Water Filtration Plant.

In 2017, a rehabilitation project broke ground to extend the life and ensure the continued safe performance of the dam. In addition, the project includes an American Disability Act (ADA) compliant building to include a visitor center and field office.

WSSC Becomes Official WSSC Becomes Official

ANACOSTIA RIVER FLOOD

By the end of World War II, in 1945, WSSC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed studies that determined the Anacostia River and surrounding streams needed a series of levees to control flooding. The estimated cost was $3 million. This was an ambitous project due to wartime shortages of materials and funds, but work began in 1946.

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Modern Era

Filtration Process

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Modern Era

Trenchless Pipe Restoration

In 1978, WSSC was the first in the U.S. to use trenchless pipe rehabilitation technology to renovate aging sewer mains. Use of this technology allows renovation of sewer mains without excavation and in much less time than conventional replacements.

Modern Era

Hocevar Era

Richard G. Hocevar, one of the biggest innovators in WSSC’s history, began his career as a welder. Though he never graduated from high school or attended college, Hocevar brought innovative solutions to WSSC and steered the organization through a period of rapid development. In 1993, Hocevar convinced the Maryland General Assembly to approve a “system development charge,” a rate change innovation that allowed WSSC to bill developers for water and sewer to new buildings instead of passing on those costs to all customers.

Richard Hocevar (right), former WSSC General Manager, greets a customer in 1982.
Modern Era

Zinc-Coated Ductile Iron Pipes

Zinc-coated ductile iron pipes with V-Bio Enhanced Polyethylene Encasement are now used by WSSC as standard materials. Zinc pipes last longer than ductile iron pipes — about 100 years — saving on costs over time and ensuring less disruptions to daily life for customers.

Modern Era

UV Disinfection

The recent technological development of ultraviolet (UV) disinfection help provide greater protection against the waterborne disease, Cryptosporidiosis. WSSC installed the UV reactors at the Potomac Plant in 2010 and recently at its Patuxent Plant. Going above and beyond federal and state requirements, WSSC sees the UV disinfection as critical in protecting public health.

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Modern Era

Powered by Nature

For more than 50 years, WSSC has used hydropower to generate electricity for plants. Treating wastewater and making quality drinking water uses a considerable amount of electrical power.

Mindful of the need to protect the environment and eager to cut energy costs, WSSC signed its first wind power agreement in 2008. WSSC has four megawatts (MW) of clean, solar photovoltaic power equally divided between its Western Branch and Seneca Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP). In 2018, WSSC will gain an additional six MW; two MW will be onsite at Seneca WWTP and four MW for Aggregate Net Metering at various locations in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

All combined, WSSC is ranked the top local government organization using renewable energy and has lowered its carbon footprint by over 15 percent since 2005.
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Modern Era

Anaerobic Digestion

The process, anaerobic digestion, is seen as a game changer for providing resource recovery to cut costs and provide a renewable source of energy. The process uses the natural decomposition of organic materials by microbes that thrive in an oxygen-free environment. WSSC’s treatment plants produce about 70,000 tons of biosolid sludge a year. Instead of treating the sludge with a chemical-intensive lime stabilization process, anaerobic digestion uses a biological process to convert the sludge into methane gas, which can be converted to power engines, produce electricity and generate heat for the ongoing digestion process. The result is a $3.7 million savings per year in reduced energy, disposal and chemical costs.

Modern Era

Patents

From the humble beginnings, WSSC grew to the eighth largest water and wastewater treatment utility in the United States. As one of the largest in the nation, WSSC helps influence manufacturers and innovates new technologies and procedures. Over the years WSSC received a number of patents for its innovations including technology to enhance safety, protect the environment, enhance pipe maintenance and reduce waste.

An adjustable clamping arrangement for magnetic mounting plate

On July 8, 2008, WSSC received a patent for an adjustable clamping arrangement for a magnetic mounting plate invented by Rutland Jones III. His invention magnetically mounts a drill press on a steel plate clamped to a manhole cover by three L-shaped clamps to keep them from falling out when transported.

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Modern Era

Acoustic Fiber Optic Technology

WSSC uses acoustic fiber optic (AFO) technology to locate breaks in water mains and foresee weaknesses in pipes. AFO alerts WSSC of imminent breaks which protects public safety and saves the utility money and time. A global leader in its use of AFO, this year WSSC surpassed a 100-mile milestone of AFO use in water mains.

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