Plan to Remove Stink Along C&O Canal Put in Motion

WASA, Park Service team up to deodorize sewer pipe

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority and the National Park Service are providing relief for a problem that is both delicate and yet explosive in nature.

WASA's side of it involves the main sewer line that runs from Dulles all the way to the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment plant in the District. Essentially, anything you flush along that 50-mile line goes through the pipe, which WASA euphemistically refers to as the Potomac Interceptor.

The matter flowing through the sewer creates a potentially explosive gas. There are vents along the pipe to release the gas.

A good part of the line runs along the C & O Canal, which is where the National Park Service comes into the picture.

It can get smelly near the vents. Especially at the canal. Especially in the summer. In fact, a lot of people are under the impression that the canal smells. The Park Service would like you to know it is not the canal, thank you very much.

After years of study, WASA and the Park Service today broke ground on a solution to the problem: building six air-scrubbing huts in place of all but a few of the sewer vents. The ground breaking took place at Fletcher’s Boathouse, where the only D.C. facility will be constructed.

“We have been working with D.C. WASA for a permanent fix to the odors and are pleased with this solution that will control odors, provide new public restrooms and will blend in with the park surroundings,” said National Park Service Superintendent Kevin Brandt.


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That’s right, park visitors, the deodorizing hut at Fletcher’s Boathouse will also have public restrooms. How conveniently apropos!

Other scrubbing facilities are planned for Montgomery County, Md., and Loudoun and Fairfax counties in Virginia.

D.C. WASA General Manager George Hawkins estimates the cost of the project at almost $15 million -- significant cash to be sure, but a small price to pay to ensure that people who go to the canal for a little fresh air won’t get a snootful of sewer stink instead.

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