Water for wildlife: tank sitting made easy
Siting an elevated water storage facility in the megalopolis that stretches from Washington, D.C., to Boston can be a challenge. And for regional water utilities trying to place a multi-tank system to satisfy increasing water demand, it is an even bigger challenge because of the NIMBY syndrome. Local residents want and need the water, but they do not necessarily want to live near the huge tanks needed to hold it.
This kind of citizen opposition can turn topography and environmental stipulations into minor problems.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) encountered several roadblocks when it was attempting to site a 4.5-million-gallon water storage tank on the northern fringes of its distribution area.
The WSSC serves nearly 1.5 million residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland — both heavily populated suburbs of Washington, D.C. It has more than 85,000 customer accounts, including the University of Maryland, Giant Foods, the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and several major bottling companies.
In the late 1970s, WSSC realized that population growth around the nation’s capital was putting a strain on its water distribution system and would eventually lead to inadequate distribution to portions of its service area. A few years later, the WSSC determined that a portion of its sanitary district, primarily Bowie-Glenn Dale in Prince George’s County, needed additional water storage capacity to meet projected demands by the year 2010.
WSSC officials authorized engineers to evaluate and recommend alternative sites and designs for locating a multi-tank system in the area.
They hired O’Brien & Gere Engineers, Landover, Md., to prepare and design the Bowie-Glenn Dale Water Storage Facility Plan. Twenty-three possible sites and three different storage systems were evaluated over the course of several months, but no consensus was reached about a location for the tanks.
About that time, representatives from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC), a 12,750-acre wildlife refuge located in Prince George’s County, applied to WSSC for water service to a proposed 40,000-square-foot national wildlife visitor center. Scheduled for completion in late 1993, the large facility would provide visitors with an understanding and appreciation of wildlife resources.
Officials from the WSSC and the PWRC realized they might be able to accommodate each other.
WSSC officials toured the site of the visitor center and decided that it looked like the perfect place for a multi-purpose water storage facility. The bowls of the tanks would be visible from the west side of the proposed visitor center, but the facility itself would be well screened from view.
PWRC later agreed to provide a remote, well-buffered five-acre site for three 1.5-million-gallon storage tanks in exchange for water distribution to its new $18 million visitor center.
“This represents the ability of two public agencies to combine their interests for the good of the entire region,” says WSSC Project Manager Donald McEvoy. “It shows what a little cooperation and dedication can accomplish. You don’t see this type of agreement every day.”
Still, siting aside, the design of the water storage system was a major concern for PWRC officials who wanted it to be consistent with their mission of protecting the environment and area wildlife.
They insisted that the tanks blend with the surrounding environment as much as possible.
To that end, the bowels of the hydropillar tanks were painted green, and the single-support, steel-plated pillars were painted brown.
“The water storage facility is visible from the visitors center,” McEvoy says, “but the tanks blend nicely with a group of trees on the horizon.”
In fact, the tanks’ modern design won the Steel Plate Fabricators Association’s Tank of the Year award for manufacturer Pitt-Des Moines.
Even the coating systems selected for the project were environmentally friendly. Outside and inside coating systems from M.A.B. Industrial Coatings have low levels of volatile organic compounds, and their high-solids content means that there are almost no solvents to cause air pollution problems.
Additionally, the multi-tank facility enables maintenance workers to drain and service one tank without disrupting capacity.