Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

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Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission
WSSC building.jpg
Abbreviation WSSC
Formation April 8, 1916; 101 years ago (1916-04-08)[1]
Legal status Political subdivision of the State of Maryland[3]
Headquarters 14501 Sweitzer Lane,
Laurel, Maryland 20707
United States
Coordinates 39°05′19″N 76°53′48″W / 39.088736°N 76.896673°W / 39.088736; -76.896673Coordinates: 39°05′19″N 76°53′48″W / 39.088736°N 76.896673°W / 39.088736; -76.896673
Services Montgomery and Prince George's counties, Maryland[3]
Thomasina V. Rogers, Chair,
T. Eloise Foster, Vice Chair,
Omar M. Boulware,
Fausto R. Bayonet,
Chris Lawson,
Howard A. Denis[4]
Carla A. Reid[4]
Revenue (2016)
Expenses (2016) $569,673,000[3]
Mission To provide safe and reliable water and return clean water to our environment, all in an ethical, sustainable, and financially responsible manner.[2]
Website www.wsscwater.com

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is a bi-county political subdivision of the State of Maryland[3] that provides safe drinking water and wastewater treatment for Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland except for a few cities in Montgomery County that continue to operate their own water facilities.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission is the eighth largest water and wastewater utility in the United States. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission serves about 1.8 million people in an approximately 1,000-square-mile (2,600 km2) area. It owns and manages about 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of water and sewer mains.[5]


A bi-county agency, WSSC has extensive regulatory functions. It promulgates and enforces the plumbing code for its jurisdiction as well as reviews and approves contract plans for extensions of water and sewer mains. The agency operates 3 reservoirs (plus shared access to a fourth reservoir), 2 drinking water filtration plants, and 6 wastewater treatment plants. It also collects wastewater which is treated at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant (operated by DC Water) in Washington, D.C.[5]



  1. ^ Shared resource with Fairfax County Water Authority and Washington Aqueduct. Jennings Randolph Lake, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is also shared by these water suppliers.

Drinking Water Filtration Plants[edit]

  • Patuxent
  • Potomac

Wastewater Treatment Plants[edit]

Plant Location Size[a] Discharges to
Damascus Damascus 1.50 mgd Magruder Branch
Hyattstown Hyattstown 0.02 mpd Little Bennett Creek
Parkway Bowie 7.50 mgd Patuxent River
Piscataway Accokeek 30.00 mgd Piscataway Creek
Seneca Germantown 20.00 mgd Great Seneca Creek
Western Branch Upper Marlboro 30.00 mgd Western Branch
Blue Plains (DC Water and Sewer Authority) Washington, D.C. 169.90 mgd[b] Potomac River
  1. ^ mgd: million gallons per day
  2. ^ WSSC allocation is 169.90 mgd. Total plant capacity is 370.00 mgd.


The WSSC is overseen by six commissioners, three from Montgomery County and three from Prince George's County. These commissioners are appointed by their respective county executives with the approval of the county councils. The day-to-day operations are the responsibility of a general manager/chief executive officer, who supervises a staff of over 1,700. The Commission's budget for Fiscal Year 2014 (which ends June 30, 2014) is $1.4 billion.[6] The agency headquarters offices are located in Laurel, Maryland.


In 1912, Asa Phillips, sanitary engineer for the District of Columbia, convened a meeting with local residents to discuss the problem of Montgomery and Prince George's counties polluting the streams that flowed into the District.[7] The pollution of the streams was a major health concern for the residents of the District of Columbia.[7] The people at the meeting advised the Maryland General Assembly that a study of the problem was needed.[7] The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill authorizing the governor of Maryland to appoint a study commission in 1912.[7]

As a result of the recommendation of the study commission, Maryland Delegate Paul Waters introduced a bill to establish the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and the Maryland General Assembly passed the bill on April 8, 1916.[1] The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission was originally created to study the drainage situation in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and to recommend the best possible sewage system.[1]

In 1918, the Commission released its report, written by Robert B. Morse and Harry Hall, to the Maryland General Assembly.[7] The report recommended establishing a permanent Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission as a bi-county agency for water and sewage.[7] The report included a plan for construction for the next 22 years.[7] T. Howard Duckett drafted a law officially establishing the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission as a permanent bi-county agency.[7] Following lobbying by E. Brooke Lee, the law was passed, effective May 1, 1918.[7] William T.S. Curtis of Montgomery County, Emory H. Bogley of Montgomery County, and Duckett of Prince George's County were named commissioners.[7]

Duckett visited Elizabeth, New Jersey, which had financed its sewage plan by having a front-foot benefit charge and a land tax, with the house connections installed at the cost of each property owner.[7] Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission requested a similar arrangement in Maryland, and the county governments certified the levy in March 1919, using the rate of $0.015 per $100 of assessed property.[7]

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission then bought the Takoma Park water system, which drew water from Sligo Creek.[7] Next, it bought a used water filtration plant from Culpeper, Virginia, and set it up along the Northwest Branch near Burnt Mills.[7] It was replaced with a new plant in the 1930s.[7] Later, a pipeline was built to bring water from the Patuxent River at Mink Hollow to the filtration plant in Burnt Mills.[7]

In 1944, the Patuxent River Filtration Plant was built near Laurel.[7] Tridelphia Lake and the T. Howard Duckett Dam and Reservoir were completed in 1952, adding further capacity.[7] The Potomac River drinking water plant opened in 1961, with an initial capacity of 30 mgd.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Suburban Drainage Study: Marylanders Interested in Bill Which Is Likely to Benefit District". The Washington Post. April 9, 1916. p. ES13.
  2. ^ "About Us". Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. July 10, 2017. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Annual Financial Report: Year Ended June 30, 2016". Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. September 30, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Our Governance". Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "About WSSC". Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. Accessed October 14, 2010.
  6. ^ WSSC. "Fiscal Year 2014 Approved Budget." July 1, 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Brigham, Arthur. "The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission". The Montgomery County Story. Montgomery County Historical Society. 21. 3. August 1978.
  8. ^ "WSSC History". WSSC. 2016-09-02. 

External links[edit]