Who is the Washington County Service Authority?

Our History

WPA_Workers.jpgMuch of WCSA’s water distribution system was built more than 60 years ago under President Franklin Roosevelt’s WPA projects during the Depression. Another significant portion of WCSA's water lines were laid by private water companies or citizens working together to provide their communities with a reliable source for household water and indoor plumbing. The forerunner of WCSA, the Washington County Sanitary District (WCSD), was created during the Depression. The sanitary district employed many jobless young men to lay water and sewer lines that served the Abingdon area with water drawn from Taylors Valley. Some of these cast iron lines are still in use in WCSA’s main distribution system. 

In 1960, WCSD purchased Legard Water Company, which provided water to Damascus. The Washington County Service Authority was formed in 1976 when the Washington County Sanitary District No. 1 merged with two private water companies: Goodson Kinderhook Water Authority, which included Bristol and southern Washington County, and the Manhaim Water Company, which served the area between Glade Spring and Saltville. 

Between 1960 and 1976, when the Washington County Sanitary District became the Washington County Service Authority, it acquired several private water companies, expanding its service area to include Bristol, southern Washington County, Damascus, Mendota, and the area between Glade Spring and Saltville. 

WCSA Timeline

1910 – Abingdon Water Authority provides water service to Abingdon through wooden transmission lines. 
1938 - Washington County Sanitary District No. 1 is formed as part of President Roosevelt’s WPA Plan.
1953 – Goodson Kinderhook Water Authority, a private water company, is created to provide water service to Bristol and southern Washington County. 
1960 – WCSD purchases Legard Water Company, a private water company that provides Damascus with water service. 
1960 – Manhaim Water Company is created to serve the area between Glade Spring and Saltville. 
1976 – Washington County Service Authority is formed by the consolidation of WCSD No. 1, GKWA, and Manhaim Water Company. 
1977 – The new Washington County Drinking Water Plant on the Middle Fork of the Holston River is put into operation as the main source of WCSA's drinking water.
1979 - WCSA has 12,554 water customers.

Water Service 

One difficulty with serving a rural community is the distance water must travel to reach the customer. WCSA’s distribution system covers approximately 300 square miles, with 900 miles of pipeline. With more than 20,900 customers, WCSA must maintain almost 230 feet of pipeline per customer. Furthermore, a majority of the pipeline in WCSA’s system was installed long ago in piecemeal fashion with inadequate planning or design for future growth. Thus, we have a system with pipe sizes ranging from one-half inch to 24 inches in diameter and pipe materials of galvanized steel, cast iron, ductile iron, asbestos cement, PVC and stainless steel.

Another challenge with serving customers in a mountainous region is the change in elevation encountered within the service area. Washington County’s lowest elevation point is 1,698 feet above sea level, and its highest is 5,520 feet above sea level – a vertical range of 3,822 feet. Within the water system itself, the elevation change from the lowest to highest point is 1,147 feet, which translates to 493 psi. The maximum normal operating system pressure is 250 psi. Therefore, WCSA must operate and maintain more than 20 pressure-reducing valves. Optimum operating pressures for household use is 50 psi. The distribution system has 26 water-pumping stations, 24 water storage tanks and more than 40 pressure zones. 

The capacity of WCSA-owned water treatment facilities is 14 million gallons per day. WCSA owns and operates one membrane filtration plant, one conventional surface water treatment plant, one spring and one well.  Additionally, WCSA purchases water from two different utilities. In total, WCSA’s average distribution of water for 2012 was approximately 7 million gallons per day.

Though extending public water to unserved communities is a top priority, WCSA has a mature water system that demands the majority of our resources. Without properly caring for the existing system, we would be unable to extend water service. Our motto is to provide the highest quality drinking water at the lowest possible cost.


Sewer Service 

The year 1993 marked the genesis of our current sewer system; however, much of our sewer system (through acquisition) dates back to the mid-1970s. We face a number of the same challenges with sewer service as we do with water. WCSA’s collection system covers approximately 25 square miles and is comprised of 68 miles of pipeline (gravity and force main). WCSA currently has more than 2,000 connections and therefore must maintain almost 180 feet of pipeline per customer. Elevation changes encount-ered within the service area require 26 pump stations.

For many reasons, sewer is more expensive than water. The capital cost for its installation is more because it must be installed on grade and often must be deeper than water lines. Collection systems requiring pump stations also require greater cost for electricity and telephone service (for monitoring purposes) and operator attendance to ensure there are no operational problems that could lead to overflows. Moreover, sewer pumps have a shorter service life than water due to their operating environment. Finally, treatment is more expensive due to the product we are treating and the quality being returned to the environment. 

WCSA-owned source capacity is 2.22 million gallons per day. WCSA owns and operates two extended, aeration-activated sludge (biological) treatment facilities. Additionally, WCSA maintains conveyance and treatment agreements with two different utilities. In total, WCSA’s average collection of sewer for 2012 was approximately 0.45 million gallons per day. Our motto is to return the highest quality water to the environment at the lowest possible cost.

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