Jan 25, 2022

US Army Corps of Engineers Pulls Support from $55 Million Potomac River Project

The Corps objections are likely to lead to a delay of at least a year

Potomac river

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has pulled its support from a $55 million project to help stop the dumping of storm water and sewage effluent into the Potomac River.

The Army Corps of Engineers has previously shown support for the project for years, reported The Cumberland Times-News.

According to an update from Cumberland, Maryland, on the project during a work session at City Hall, the state has been placing communities like Cumberland under a consent decree that requires the issue to be resolved by 2023.

According to The Cumberland News-Times, the problem for the Corps is plans to bury a 2,000-foot section of the pipeline in the earthen levee adjacent to the Potomac River beside the C&O Canal Towpath. The pipeline pathway leading to the treatment plant is positioned between the river, levees and National Park Service property, which is where the canal and towpath are located.

The project has already consumed nearly $20 million in grant funding, but the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for the flood control system at the site, has pulled its support.

According to Smith, the Corps is concerned with what the project will do to the system's ability to mitigate flood damage. The Corps questioned if a levee failure during a major storm event could result in significant damage to the city, reported The Cumberland News-Times.

Maryland has been seeking to prevent dumping into the Potomac River for decades, and it is suspected that this is due to combined sewer overflows (CSO outfalls). Many CSO outfalls have been remedied across the state, but several communities in Maryland still have CSOs, according to the city, reported The Cumberland Times-News. 

Cumberland's subterranean system includes miles of combined storm water and sewer lines, with several CSO outfalls. According to the city, the cost of fixing the problem by separating the combined lines throughout the city has been estimated at over $250 million, requiring significant digging throughout the city.

The Corps objections are likely to lead to a delay of at least a year, according to Bobby Smith, city engineer.

"The Corps is sensitive to our situation, but there has been a change of personnel on their side," said Smith, city engineer.

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Engineers developed an alternate plan around 2012 to alleviate the problem for an estimated $55 million with less digging.

This alternate plan includes installing a 78-inch pipeline at a large outfall located behind the Mill Race outfall. Overflows would be captured by the pipeline, which would transport the effluent approximately 1.2 miles south to a 5-million gallon storage tank buried beside Cumberland's Wastewater Treatment Plant in South Cumberland and then stored until it can be released, reported The Cumberland Times-News.

Some of the pipeline has already been installed in other sections but now the work is halted.

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