The Upper Occoquan Service Authority’s (UOSA’s) Flat Branch Pump Station in Prince William County is an essential part of the National Capital Region’s (NCR’s) water and wastewater infrastructure, pumping 20 million gallons of sewage per day to serve 200,000 residents in the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park and part of Prince William County. The pump station is powered through two utility transformers and includes two 2.5 megawatt stationary engine-generators for standby power.
Recently, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) partnered with UOSA and the U.S. Army’s 249th Prime Power Battalion to practice using the Army Corps’ mobile electrical generators to power the Flat Branch station. Robust backup power capabilities are essential to ensure that facilities can maintain normal service during emergencies. During the exercise, the 249th temporarily disconnected the pump station from the regular power grid and powered the pump station using the 249th’s backup generators around-the-clock for five days.
In addition to strengthening regional preparedness for electrical outages, the exercise also provided helpful training for members of the 249th, which deployed 27 highly-trained troops from their base at Ft. Belvoir to the Flat Branch station over the course of the exercise. The 249th maintains a standing partnership with FEMA to support domestic preparedness and has previously worked with COG to assess backup power needs for critical infrastructure sites and participate in exercises and workshops. The exercise simulated challenges that the 249th faces during real-world deployments by requiring personnel to connect mobile generators to an existing electrical system. The unit has already expressed interest in similarly partnering with other COG jurisdictions in the future.
The exercise was a technical and practical success. The 249th demonstrated the ability to quickly and effectively provide backup power to a critical regional facility at no cost to UOSA, and UOSA gained experience in utilizing federal resources to maintain critical capabilities. UOSA, the 249th, and COG also helped increase overall awareness of the support that the 249th can provide by arranging for regional utility and emergency management officials to observe the exercise on-site. Overall, the exercise established a model of federal, regional, and local collaboration that the region can use to strengthen emergency preparedness in 2016 and beyond.