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In response to my post yesterday on the controversy over the development of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, a number of readers commented that the community desire for additional park space could be satisfied by incorporating a portion of the McMillan reservoir area across First Street NW. The reservoir and its surrounding green space are currently fenced off, but moving the fence to the edge of the reservoir, some of you suggested, would provide more than ample greenery to complement the nine acres of open space in the planned development across the street.

Cheryl Cort of the Coalition for Smarter Growth commented:

Note that the reservoir across the street from the 25-acre sand filtration site in question is 68 acres.  Many other cities used their drinking water reservoirs as a recreational amenity.  We should be able to as well.  We dont need more than the already generous amount of park space for the proposed development plan, we need the Army Corps of Engineers to work with us on its 68-acre reservoir site that contains the original park and fountain.

That seemed like a sensible idea, so I got in touch with Tom Jacobus of the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the reservoir. His answer? Not gonna happen.

“From a water treatment point of view, it would not be possible,” Jacobus said. “The green space on the east side are underground storage reservoirs. It’s finished water so those have to be protected.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, he said, has strict regulations about finished water—-that is, water that’s already been treated and is ready to go down your gullet—-that would prevent public access to the area.

“For the security and integrity of the water system, we would need to keep the fences where they are,” he said. “There is a general rule, for finished water, for water that is ready to be drunk, that it be isolated on the surface, because of the potential for even inadvertant damage.”

The water that’s visible to the public, he explained, has not yet been treated, but the water under the green areas has, and it can’t be trampled on by picnickers and kite-flyers.

So there you have it. Looks like the neighborhood will have to make do with whatever park space it can eke out of the sand filtration site.