U.S. Water News Online
FREDERICK, Md. -- Frederick County commissioners have
refused to sell treated wastewater to Sempra Energy Corp. to cool a
proposed power plant, leaving the Potomac River as the project's
potential source for millions of gallons of water daily.
The decision complicates Sempra's 31/2-year effort to build the
600-megawatt, natural-gas-fired plant, which the company says would
increase reliability of the region's electricity supply.
"We have articulated many times in the past that it's been our
preference to use reclaimed water," Sempra spokesman Art Larson said.
"We hope the county would reconsider."
If not, Sempra must build six miles of pipeline to bring Potomac
River water to the plant near Adamstown and discharge wastewater back
into the river. Sempra also must obtain a right of way from the
National Park Service allowing the pipes to cross the Chesapeake and
Ohio Canal National Historical Park to reach the river. Sempra
already has begun the process of obtaining all necessary rights of
way, Larson said.
The plant would use an average of 2.4 million gallons a day -- and
up to 4 million gallons on peak days -- to cool the plant's
As much as 90 percent of the water would evaporate during the
cooling process, said Michael G. Marschner, director of Frederick
County's utilities and solid waste management division, resulting in
less water being directly returned to the river than was withdrawn.
The four commissioners voted unanimously against Sempra's request
to use treated county wastewater, fearing that the plant's water
consumption would reduce the county's chances of obtaining regulatory
approval for future Potomac River withdrawals.
"I don't want to compromise our ability to obtain new water
supplies," board President Jan H. Gardner said.
Sempra obtained state Public Service Commission approval for the
plant in April 2005 after negotiating with regulators and downstream
utilities to minimize the plant's impact on the Potomac River's flow
during severe droughts. The company has agreements with two upstream
quarries in West Virginia to release water to augment the river's
flow during those periods, Larson said.
Sempra has no projected construction timetable for the plant. The
project depends on the company finding customers for the electricity,
The Frederick County commissioners also took steps toward
implementing a personal property tax on non-utility operating
machinery and equipment such as the Sempra plant. Gardner said the
lack of such a tax had made the county attractive to power-plant
builders. The commissioners have opposed such projects for aesthetic
reasons and air-pollution concerns.
Larson said Sempra would have to review the impact of any
additional taxes on the project.
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