Since 1990, the town of Rising Sun in the northeast corner of Maryland has more than doubled its population, which is now estimated at approximately 2,800. Over the last decade, town management has struggled to supply sufficient water to meet growing demand. Local aquifers are simply unable to sustain the current population, with the five town wells producing less than half the flow needed to support residents and businesses. After a decade of planning, negotiation and preliminary engineering had stalled, KCI’s environmental engineering team was brought in to coordinate the funding, design and construction inspection of a five-mile water main connecting the Chester Water Authority’s (CWA) water system to the town’s infrastructure network. By linking two separate systems, across two states, and within two drainage basins, the unconventional project has broken new ground by embracing innovation and overcoming a host of technical challenges.
Concerns were raised that the length of the Rising Sun interconnect and possible storage duration in the town’s water tower would lead to excessive degeneration of chlorine, creating the potential for a public health issue. Chlorine is a disinfectant that is added into tap water at the treatment plant before distribution through a network for mains and pipes. Engineers created a complex hydraulic model of the proposed water main as well as the town of Rising Sun’s existing water system to investigate whether the five-mile distance from the CWA plant to the town, estimated at ten-fold the typical span between treatment and tap, would allow chlorine injected at the plant to decay below minimum standards.
In the wake of the Flint, Michigan, and similar crises throughout the nation, water utility owners expect that water quality regulations will become stricter over time. The Rising Sun water main crosses state lines and drainage basins, advancing the previous mindset that water should always remain in the basin where it originated. Water quality and scarcity issues will require public works officials to move past these principles and consider outside-of-the-box solutions.
J. Ryan Flickinger, PEPractice Leader
The team also provided preliminary and final design, permitting, construction inspection and public involvement services for the nearly two-mile section that is located in Maryland. During planning, engineers identified issues with right-of-way along the proposed alignment. Although maintained by Cecil County, property lines along many roadway miles extend all the way to the centerline—meaning that there is no municipally-owned right-of-way. The KCI team met and negotiated individually with homeowners, often having to change the alignment of the water line to match the footprint of the easements they were able to procure. To appease residents and minimize impacts to their properties, engineers employed multiple construction approaches on different segments. With all stakeholders aware of the high-profile nature and urgent need for improvements, design plans were prepared in less than half the time required for a typical water line project.
In order to meet the reporting requirements for the USDA, KCI deployed the firm’s proprietary Mobile Field Services (MFS) application, which both facilitated and automated the necessary documentation of quantities and work items. This efficient and responsive approach was critical in completing the many levels of approval required to ensure timely payment of the contractors. The Rising Sun-Chester interconnect project was successfully completed under an accelerated schedule and well below budget, with enough savings for the town to dedicate $1.5 million toward extending their existing water system and serving more local customers. As construction neared completion, our team assisted the town’s small public work’s staff with training on required maintenance, including testing and flushing of the new system. Although both the Pennsylvania and Maryland pipe alignments were constantly fluctuating, the mains lined up seamlessly, as planned, at the state line.
After 10 years of restrictions, a sustainable source of water is now available for residents and businesses located within the town boundaries. For Rising Sun, the interconnect creates the potential of growth—not just in population, but overall economics. Where development has been restricted, new neighborhoods and commercial districts can also flourish. “Water is life and it transcends boundaries,” said Ben Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment at the ground breaking ceremony while speaking on the importance of the project. “Where it flows, it grows.” The success of this project, combined with a new wastewater treatment plant completed in 2015, has already led to redevelopment in the downtown district and interest around the town. With substantial construction complete, Rising Sun residents and businesses can enjoy unrestricted access to water with the knowledge that their families and town can continue to grow.