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Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission | 2

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission:

100 Years Old and Still Going Strong The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is among the nation’s largest water and wastewater utilities, servicing 1.8 million residents in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland. Written by Kevin Doyle Produced by Stephen Marino

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s the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) embarks on its second century of operation, it can look back with pride on its first 100 years, unmarred by a single drinking water quality violation. Among the nation’s largest water and wastewater utilities, WSSC services 1.8 million residents in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland. Its service area encompasses nearly 1,000 square miles and includes nearly 5,700 miles of fresh water pipeline and more than 5,600 miles of sewer pipeline. Three reservoirs, two water filtration plants, and six water resource recovery facilities fall under the WSSC umbrella. The company also maintains a costsharing agreement with the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant located in Washington, D.C. The company employs approximately 1700 and their Fiscal Year $1.4 billion operating and capital budget reflects their continued mission to provide safe and reliable water. Additionally, WSSC maintains an AAA bond rating, which recognizes their sound financial planning. The company is under the direction of its 12th General Manager and

CEO Carla Reid, who is also the first woman to serve in that capacity at WSSC. Her vision of the company’s path forward is clear. “First of all, WSSC employees are dedicated to, and passionate about, our public health mission. There are a lot of things people can live without, but safe drinking water is not one of them. To ensure we continue to fulfill our mission by producing water that meets all strict federal standards, we must continue to stay at the forefront of innovation,” Reid says. “Water is needed for every project that gets done – as an engineering and environmental company we want to be the world-class utility and the people’s favorite place to do business. Nobody says that about a utility but we are super proud that thirty percent of our spending goes back into our small local and minority businesses. We are an economic development engine,” she adds. “We have to make it as easy as possible to do business with us and really strive to be a well-organized machine.” Reid joined WSSC as an entry level civil engineer and advanced up the leadership ladder, eventually becoming Deputy GM before retiring after 20 years. After leaving WSSC, she held leadership positions in both Montgomery

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission | 5 County and Prince George’s counties before returning in 2016 as GM and CEO. “I developed a wealth of experience by leaving the company and got a view of the company from the view of our customers. I’m very honored to be here,” Reid notes.

Premier Projects Patuxent Water Filtration Plant: This $65 million upgrade is nearly complete. Improvements include the addition of ultraviolet

disinfection, a new fluoride/ orthophosphate building, a new solids handling facility and a treatment train, which includes three flocculation basins, a sedimentation basin, extension of the chlorine contact chamber and two additional filters. “It went into service in 1944 to handle 12 million gallons per day. Today we are producing 50 million gallons a day and are increasing up to 72 million gallons a day,” Reid points out. Work is being done to help reduce demand on WSSC’s Potomac Water Filtration Plant, the larger of the two plants. Broad Creek Augmentation Project: This $182 million endeavor consists of four separate contracts with a project completion date of 2020. According to Reid, the project will support development in southern Prince George’s County and will relieve sewage overflows during severe wet weather. Work on the Piscataway Wastewater Treatment Plant Storage and Headworks, southern conveyance system and northern conveyance system are complete. The final phase is the Broad Creek WWPS rehabilitation.

CEO - Carla Reid

Piscataway Bio Energy Facility: The $250 million undertaking, currently under contract as a design-build, will employ


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- Carla Reid, General Manager/CEO

innovative technologies to recover resources and produce green energy. “There are so many benefits to doing this. It is the largest and most complex project we have ever constructed, and will literally turn poop to power by transforming sewage into renewable fuel,” Reid says. “We will save customers money by decreasing operating costs. We will be producing less bio solids and a cleaner Class A material that is better for the environment. We will protect the Chesapeake Bay by lowering the nutrient loading, and reduce WSSC’s greenhouse gas

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emissions by 15 percent. This is one of the ways to be a responsible steward and innovator in our industry,” she continues.

Day to Day Reid is comfortable with the responsibilities of her position, especially being the first woman. “It is a huge honor and I feel responsible to set a tone and create an experience that women are excellent leaders and should be evaluated on what they bring to the job,” she observes. “I have to set the tone, lead the organization and make sure that everyone knows it takes all of us to create

the world-class utility. “It takes everyone knowing what they have to do and what we are trying to accomplish as an organization. I am big on teamwork and relationships. In everything I do I feel the responsibility of being a leader here,” she adds, noting her guiding principles are: simplify, focus and connect. Ensuring safe operations is an around-the-clock focus. In the past two years, the company has seen a 65 percent reduction in lost days as well as a 54 percent decrease in worker’s compensation costs. “Water is powerful and we don’t

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission | 8 take it for granted – we protect our people, infrastructure and systems. We execute vital safety programs,” Reid says, citing guidelines that are in place for heavy equipment operation, excavation and trenching, confined space entry, hazardous materials and accident/ illness protection. “All of these things together help us to have the record we have. We want our people to go home to their families safe at the end of every work day. Safety is at the forefront of everything we do,” she adds. WSSC strives to build and maintain strong relationships with the contracting community



and its “Tap Into Business at WSSC” program opens the doors to contracting opportunities to hundreds of companies. “We really relish the opportunity to bring prime contractors, suppliers and subs together all at once to discuss opportunities and working together. Our goal is to foster open communication that allows us to improve our delivery of projects,” Reid notes. “I make sure everyone knows I have an open door policy. We want to build strong relations with the contracting community – we can’t execute the clean water mission without them.” To screen subcontractors and



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METRO BALTIMORE 800.633.5077 NORTHERN VIRGINIA 703.330.5579 MARYLAND 301.733.7414

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Patuxent WFP expansion aerial

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission |10 suppliers, the company has used a best value results-oriented strategic sourcing model for the past several years. “There are too many instances when low bid does not really save money. This is a results-oriented selection process we have and it has saved our customers more than $70 million over the last six years. We have a tool that evaluates contractors and their performances. If they do a good job, they get more work. The main focus is that we have great contractors doing what they need to do,” Reid says.

Initiatives and Challenges The company operates a robust Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program and recently completed a second successful “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” day. “We invite the girls in and give them hands-on experience so they can see what it’s like to work in this industry. They see our plants and are able to talk to our female engineers and ask questions while learning about their journey,” Reid says. WSSC efforts to build their talent pipeline also include programs

such as H20 Engineers and Sewer Science, which are designed to introduce high school and middle school students to the water industry. The company’s college intern program trains students in the company’s inner workings and provides them with a path toward employment upon graduation. Additionally, WSSC plans to institute a co-op program with the University of Maryland and other local colleges and universities. It provides students the opportunity to gain practical experience and, upon graduation, makes them eligible to return as a full-time employee.

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission | 11 An aging workforce, aging infrastructure and retaining affordability are industry-wide challenges. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s water infrastructure a D rating and wastewater infrastructure a D+. “That’s not acceptable by anyone’s standards,” is Reid’s candid assessment. “The aging workforce is a real concern because we have to make sure we’re prepared for the next 100 years. Our pipes and plants are old, with approximately 40 percent of our water and sewer mains over 50 years old. “Clean water is something we

It is a huge honor and I feel

responsible to set a tone and create an experience that women are excellent leaders and should be evaluated on

what they bring to the job.

- Carla Reid, General Manager/CEO

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Brighton Dam


of innovating to serve customers better!




Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission | 13 all need and should have. Water costs money to deliver for health, recreation and fire protection. It comes at a cost and we’ve got to keep it affordable. That’s a key component,” she adds. The industry must tackle the “out of sight out of mind” conundrum it faces since a majority of its infrastructure is buried. Reid says WSSC works diligently to educate its customers. “We are in an invisible crisis mode – I want to educate and increase awareness to how close to crisis we are in this industry,” she stresses. “We can prevent a lot of what goes wrong in this industry by becoming a proactive industry.”


Company Name: Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Country: U.S. Industry: Construction Est: 1918 Premier Service: Water/ wastewater utilities management GM/CEO: Carla Reid Website:

14501 Sweitzer Lane Laurel, MD 20707 P: 301-206-9772