The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) recently broke ground on an ambitious biosolids management program that promises to “turn waste into watts” at its Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. This bonus coverage of the event is available exclusively to BC Water News readers, and is the type of content you receive free with your subscription.

May 24, 2011

New era of technology

DC Water breaks ground on innovative project that uses Cambi thermal hydrolysis for wastewater treatment

Breaking ground at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant are (from left) Ellen Gilinsky, U.S. EPA; District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray; George Hawkins, General Manager of DC Water; Walt Bailey, Assistant General Manager of DC Water; William Walker, Chairman of the DC Water Board of Directors; David Lake, DC Water Board Member; and James Patteson, DPWES of Fairfax County, Va.

City, state and federal officials recently gathered at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant to break ground on $1.4 billion in environmental projects that will process wastewater into methane to power 30 percent of the facility, cut nitrogen loads in half, reduce solid waste and create Class A, pathogen-free biosolids.

Perry Schafer, Brown and Caldwell process and design engineer and technical lead on the Blue Plains treatment plant's ambitious biosolids program, discusses the program and its impact on the environment and on the utility.


What is the significance of the Blue Plains treatment plant’s new biosolids program?

The significance is huge due to the size of the biosolids program (this is a 370 mgd treatment plant — the largest advanced WWTP in the world), the innovative technologies that will be used, and the methods of project delivery. Also of major note is that the program will reduce rates over time — this is a program that is economically a winner for DC Water and for all connected users.

What does it mean for the local environment?

It means a 50 percent reduction in the quantity of biosolids, and a sea change of improvement in the quality and characteristics of the product, including its Class A status. The potential uses of the product will be expanded dramatically, and plans call for marketable products to be developed over time. The program results in a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from plant-related activities.

What does it mean for DC Water?

The program includes not only the major biosolids changes, but also major renewable power production to reduce the consumption of fossil-fuel based power usage from the local utilities. At least a third of the treatment plant’s total power use will be met from the methane power production system. This is another key to the economic viability of the program — large-scale reduction in power purchases.

What is Brown and Caldwell’s role?

BC is the lead firm for the Biosolids Program Management Team. BC has led the entire array of planning, engineering and related research, and legal, permitting and financial assistance work required to bring the program to fruition. The work includes all the coordination and management of activities needed to enhance the resources of DC Water and ensure that its standards are met.

What makes it an exciting project to be involved with?

The program is exciting due to its size, complexity and uniqueness (first use of the Cambi Thermal Hydrolysis Process in North America), but of even more importance is the quality of the staff and leadership here at DC Water. This is a powerful and exciting agency, with the human energy to match this world-class program.

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View photos from the Blue Plains groundbreaking ceremony.


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