WSSC History

The WSSC - A Thumbnail History

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The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) was established on May 1, 1918. But the concept of a bi-county water/sewer agency was first suggested in 1912 following a strong complaint from the neighboring District of Columbia about the streams within the Nation's Capital being fouled by waste from Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.

William Curtis

WSSC was the brainchild of the public health officials and that era's version of "civic activists." However, it took the concentrated and devoted efforts of civic leaders like E. Brooke Lee, an esteemed Montgomery County politician, and T. Howard Duckett, a prominent Prince George's County attorney and entrepreneur, generally recognized as the "founding father" of the WSSC to transform these laudable thoughts into action.

One of the people who worked on the original surveys that led to the creation of WSSC was the world-renown engineer, Abel Wolman. Wolman is widely known as the father of modern sanitary engineering. Among his many contributions, perhaps most significant was his development of chlorination - which made possible the adoption of simple, effective methods to curb waterborne diseases (typhoid and cholera, most notably).

WSSC was "under the gun" to get results from virtually the very day of its inception. On May 15, 1918, the "charter" Commissioners, Messrs. William T.S. Curtis and Emory H. Bogley of Montgomery County and Mr. Duckett, held their first official meeting, resulting in these other WSSC "firsts":

  • Mr. Curtis was elected as the first WSSC Chairman.
  • Mr. Arthur Williams of Kensington was named Secretary/Treasurer and became the first paid employee (at the rate of $50 per month).
  • Mr. Robert B. Morse was appointed as the first Chief Engineer and authorization was given to rent the Commission's initial office space (at $18 per month).
  • In July of 1918, WSSC sold its first bonds, a $50,000 issue. With the authorization granted to Chief Engineer Morse to "purchase $190 worth of supplies and a new Ford with detachable rims," the  Commission was on its way. The WSSC immediately began acquiring existing water and sewerage systems within its service area -- 95 square miles and 30,000 people, a community with an assessed real property value (assessable base) of less than $20 million at the time.  

In 2016, WSSC achieved another historical first: the first female general manager and CEO, Carla A. Reid.

Learn more about the history of WSSC and 100 Years of Serving Our Community. Visit Beyond the Pipes.


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