Potomac Sheen

On November 27, 2016, an unknown oily sheen was observed on the river near the Dickerson Power Plant yesterday.  The source of the sheen, the chemical make-up of the sheen, and the length were unknown at that time.  WSSC:

  • Activated our Contamination Rapid Response Team (CRRT) to conduct on-site water monitoring at the Potomac Plant.  
  • Halted non-critical flushing in the water distribution system.
  • Installed a boom across the river upstream from the intake.  The boom was intended to divert surface contaminants away from the intake and around the island in the river near that point.
  • Coordinated with EPA for installation of a second boom across the intake screens
  • Participated in regional coordination with local, state, federal, and other utility partners

The filtration plant continues to operate and the entire water system is currently operating at full capacity.  

Throughout this event, no chemical sheen or other contamination has been detected via testing or visual inspection around the raw water intake.

On 12/5/2016, the EPA with the assistance of Unified Command partners and the U.S. Coast Guard positively identified the substance causing the sheen as approximately 150 gallons of turbine oil from the NRG Energy Power Plant in Dickerson, Maryland.  WSSC remains in emergency response operations and has continued all of the mitigation and protection activities listed above.

Drinking water produced by WSSC is safe to drink.