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Report: Howard County to Supply Wastewater to NSA

The county will receive millions from the security agency to supply it with water to cool computer systems.

Howard County wastewater plant. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
Howard County wastewater plant. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Howard County will supply the National Security Agency with up to 5 million gallons of reclaimed wastewater per day in order to cool the agency's computer center that is scheduled to open in 2016, according to a Baltimore Sun report.

The paper reported County Executive Ken Ulman hailed the deal that will pay the county up to $2 million per year for the treated wastewater. In addition the NSA will pay an estimated $40 million for a new pumping station.

If not sold to the security agency the water would be dumped into the Little Patuxent River, according to the report.

However, not everyone is happy about the deal.

Critics of NSA eavesdropping practices are lobbying state and local municipalities to forego deals such as these to disrupt the agency's surveillance activities, reported the Sun.

Shahid Buttar, of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, told the Sun Maryland is "crucial" in this campaign and that "municipal checks and balances are really all that we the people have had an opportunity to exercise" due to the national government's "inactive" oversight of the NSA.

The computer center at the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade broke ground in May 2013 and is scheduled to finish construction in 2016. The NSA described it as a 600,000-square-foot center that will include 70,000 square feet of computer space. Its purpose is "securing America's digital infrastructure", according to an NSA statement.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA's director, said at the groundbreaking that the center's work will be grounded in an adherence to the U.S. Constitution and in compliance with U.S. laws that govern intelligence, according to the statement.

The security agency's surveillance practices have come under scrutiny after a series of releases by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Ulman said the revelations have not affected the county's work with the NSA, according to the Sun.

He told the paper people have the right to debate, "But at the end of the day, we have major defense installations throughout this country that are woven into our economies, our communities, and they need the infrastructure to perform their mission."

As for the wastewater plant itself, $8.1 million in upgrades are being constructed at the facility, which will add backup generators and solar panels. The upgrades are being implemented after a power failure during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 caused millions of gallons of wastewater to flow into the Little Patuxent River.

Read the full article - 
Howard County finds a customer for its wastewater: The NSA

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