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A $100 Million Upgrade to Sewage Treament Plant

According to the Arlington County website, the Arlington County Board authorized, as part of Master Plan 2001, up to $568 million for a Water Pollution Control Plant "to help protect, restore and safeguard state waters, and in 2003, they "pursued limit-of-technology standards concerning nutrient removal set by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)."

The County adds, "Arlington is ranked first in the state for milligram-per-liter nitrogen discharge. And the Master Plan 2001? It was completed under budget and approximately one and a half years ahead of schedule."

Now they have a Solids Master Plan that will cost up to $100 million, but according to the Arlington Sun Gazette, Arlington officials are seeing "some pushback on solid-waste upgrade." Yesterday, Scott McCaffrey wrote:

"Take all the stuff flushed through Arlington’s wastewater system in a given day, squeeze out all the liquid, and what do you have?

"All told, nearly 260,000 pounds of leftover solid material – all of which currently is treated with lime and trucked out of the area for disposal.

"Arlington officials aim to cut that amount by more than half through a nearly $100 million upgrade to the Water Pollution Control Plant. But one aspect of the proposal has some in the community worried.

"Under what has emerged as the likely staff recommendation, focused on a process called “anaerobic digestion,” the amount of residual solid material would be cut to approximately 115,000 pounds per day. But one result of switching to the new process – the creation of methane biogas as a byproduct – has engendered some community angst.

“People are concerned about the impact,” said Suzanne Sundburg, a delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation. By flaring off excess build-ups of gas, “you’re shooting superheated gas up into the atmosphere,” she said.

"David Hughes, another Civic Federation delegate, pressed the county government to “ensure that there won’t be a problem for the immediate neighborhood or the community at large.”

"Dispatched to the Civic Federation in an effort to provide reassurance was Mary Strawn, an engineer with the government’s Department of Environmental Services.

"Strawn, who spoke at the federation’s April 4 meeting, predicted that the planned upgrades would, on balance, be a net positive for the community and the environment.

“We think it’s well worth the investment,” she said."

McCaffrey also wrote:

"County officials earlier had budgeted $150 million for the current round of upgrades; the preferred alternative clocks in at $94 million, Strawn said. Users of the county government’s water and sewer services will pay the tab.

"While the Water Pollution Control Plant recently underwent a major renovation clocking in at more than $560 million, the focus was on the liquid side of the equation. Now, the effort has turned to the solid side, where some upgrades already have been undertaken to deal with aging infrastructure."

More information about the Water Pollution Control Plant's Solids Master Plan can be found here.  At the webpage, information materials can be found going back to the plan's initial introduction on December 15, 2015 as well as meeting notes, meeting Q&A, a comparison of life cycle costs, and a fact sheet of the solids master plan.

One question that I was not able to answer in looking through the Solids Master Plan information is why an upgrade to the plant is needed if Arlington is already ranked first in the state in "per-liter of nitrogen discharge."

If Growls readers wish more information on the upgrade to the sewage treatment plant, they may wish to contact  the Arlington County Board.  Just click-on the following link:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

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