Last Thursday (May 31), GHI’s Board of Directors held a work session to discuss WSSC’s proposal to move forward with the replacement of exterior water supply pipes for masonry units provided GHI takes on the responsibility for maintenance and future replacement of these pipes after thirty years.
The meeting began in 5 Court Eastway as the Board and attending members reviewed a WSSC pipe replacement project completed in 2008-2009. After the site tour, the group re-convened in the GHI boardroom to continue the meeting.
The open portion of the meeting allowed attending members to ask questions, provide information, and offer perspective on the proposal. GHI General Manager Eldon Ralph provided an overview of the matter along with a chronology of events leading up to the current proposal. Board members also commented.
Here are highlights from the open portion of the meeting:
There is no expiration date on the 1958 agreement between WSSC, GHI and the City of Greenbelt under which WSSC is responsible for the maintenance and replacement of water lines.
Two schools of thought emerged during the meeting:
- Continue to have WSSC replace water pipes as they break as required under the 1958 agreement
- agree to new terms with WSSC so WSSC will move forward with the replacement of aging pipes before they break.
The focus of WSSC’s proposal is masonry units. Masonry units have original exterior water supply pipes from the 1930’s which need to be replaced with the exception of those units whose pipes were replaced in ad hoc projects. The frame home exterior water supply pipes were replaced in the 1980s and are not specifically addressed in this proposal.
If GHI accepts WSSC’s proposal and agrees to take ownership of the exterior water supply pipes in 30 years including the future repair and replacement of such pipes, masonry units would be the only home type required to pay into the Replacement Reserves program for these pipes.
NOTE: New water pipes would probably last well beyond (perhaps double) the 30-year period that WSSC proposes to maintain the infrastructure. The Replacement Reserves program typically starts collecting money about 30 years before a component reaches the end of its expected lifespan so GHI would not start collecting the money until 2038 or 2048 and that is only if the WSSC proposal is accepted as-offered.
Although the current discussions pertain only to water lines, both GHI and WSSC are evaluating whether to extend the project to include sewer pipes due to the close proximity of the pipes Both water and sewer pipes are mentioned in the 1958 agreement.
Two types of excavation, directional boring and trenching, were evaluated. The current proposal would see pipes replaced in a manner similar to trenching.
In the past WSSC has proposed using copper pipe with aluminum spacers; GHI is concerned that the combination of metals would be vulnerable to leaks.
The proposal would move water meters out near the service-side sidewalks. GHI estimates that (depending on a yard’s size) the distance between building and meter would grow from 5 feet to 15-20 feet.
If WSSC moves the water meters and a leak starts between the building and the meter, it could be more difficult to detect and members would have to pay for the lost water.
The City of Greenbelt has been very supportive during GHI’s negotiations with WSSC.
The open portion of the meeting ended after approximately 45 minutes when the Board closed the meeting to members and continued discussion.
GHI members can contact the office to arrange access to attachments to the open meeting that are mentioned on the GHI website but not posted due to their sensitive nature. Phone the office at (301) 474-4161 during business hours Mon-Thu: 8 am to 6 pm and alternating Fridays: 8 am to 5 pm.
Stay tuned for more updates as GHI and WSSC continue discussions. Watch this space and sign up for GHI’s email newsletter https://www.ghi.coop/content/ghi-goes-greener-e-news