WASTEWATER/Communities sign up for new treatment plant
With its population growing at a rate of 5 percent annually, Broadway, Va., needed new capacity in its wastewater treatment system. As officials examined their options for upgrading the town’s plant, they received an intriguing offer: For a monthly service fee, Broadway and nearby Timberville could hook into a brand new plant that would be built, owned, operated and maintained by a third party.
Situated north of Harrisburg, Va., Broadway and Timberville have a combined population of approximately 5,000. The major employers in the area are poultry processors WLR Foods and Rocco/Shadybrook, and they — along with the two towns — were part of the new-plant scenario.
For years, Broadway, Timberville and the poultry processors had operated separate wastewater treatment plants, and each was permitted to discharge treated wastewater into the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. Together, the four plants discharged approximately 200,000 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorous each year.
The proposed plant, which would replace four facilities and require no capital outlay from the local governments, also would reduce discharge. “For us, [the decision to opt for the proposed facility] was based on capacity and economics, but we also looked at the environmental aspects of it,” says Broadway Town Manager Kyle O’Brien.
The new plant would serve as a reclamation and reuse facility, and the resulting land application of the reclaimed water would be the largest such application in Virginia. As a result, state environmental, health and conservation agencies exercised extra caution in approving the project. In October 1999, the engineering firm that had proposed the project — Naperville, Ill.-based Sheaffer International — got its permits. Construction began the following January, and, by August 2000, the North Fork facility was completed and online.
The plant, which can treat up to 1.9 million gallons of wastewater per day, consists of two lagoons, or cells, where the water is treated, and a 120-day reservoir where the reclaimed water is stored for reuse. Each treatment cell features a three-foot anaerobic zone topped off with a 22-foot aerobic zone, and waste is moved through both cells during treatment. The process takes 30 days, meaning that breakdown of the waste is maximized, while sludge production is minimized.
The engineering firm, which owns the North Fork plant, will operate the facility for 25 years. Broadway and Timberville pay the company a monthly service fee, based on the volume of wastewater treated; and the poultry processors pay a fee based on the volume and strength of their wastewater. The towns are responsible only for maintaining lateral and collection lines.
Reclaimed water is being stored at the plant, and, beginning this spring, will be used to irrigate nearly 500 acres of farmland east of Timberville. (The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will control the amount of reclaimed water used for irrigation.) Additionally, some of it will be used by one of the poultry processors for non-potable purposes, and some of it will be used in time of drought to enhance river flow.
By entering into the third-party agreement, Broadway has met its capacity needs, and O’Brien expects an economic payoff. “In the short run, the town is not saving money,” he says. “Not by a long shot. But, in the long run, we will. We did a break-even analysis, and we’re probably looking at 10 years.”
In the meantime, Broadway is looking at ways to reuse the site of its old wastewater treatment plant. “We’re working with regulatory agencies to pump down two lagoons, and we’re hoping to dry the sludge and bury it in place,” O’Brien says. “We’ve got about seven acres down there, and it’s been discussed about possibly turning [the site] into Little League ballfields.”