HRSD introduces two projects

Published 10:04 pm Friday, March 31, 2017

Ground was broken and a ribbon was cut Friday morning on two projects in Suffolk that will help provide more natural resources for future generations.

The Hampton Roads Sanitation District broke ground on a $25 million research center as part of an initiative called SWIFT: Sustainable Water Initiative For Tomorrow.

“SWIFT is about taking used water that is wasted today and turning it into a valuable resource,” said Ted Henifin, general manager of HRSD.

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The initiative aims to take wastewater that currently is discharged into the Chesapeake Bay and instead treat it to drinking water standards and inject it into the aquifer, helping to raise the groundwater level.

“This really is a game-changer for Virginia,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe told those assembled near the Nansemond Water Treatment Plant in North Suffolk on Friday morning. “We always have to balance economic growth with protecting the environment, and you can do that.”

McAuliffe said the project will help economic development.

“I can’t bring more businesses in here that need access to water at the present time, because the aquifer is so depleted,” he said. With more resources in the aquifer, more businesses will be able to use it.

Henifin said the water will be treated with UV disinfection as well as a trace amount of chlorine, in addition to how it’s already treated.

The project will aid localities, because HRSD will dramatically reduce the amount of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus it discharges into the bay. That will allow localities to avoid costly retrofits, because they will no longer have to reduce their discharge of nutrients, allowing them to redirect that money to other priorities.

Henifin said the Southeastern Public Service Authority will be affected, because eventually it will no longer be able to deliver leachate from the landfill to HRSD for treatment.

“At some point in the future, SPSA won’t be able to send us” untreated leachate, Henifin said. That means SPSA will have to treat the trash juice itself before delivering it to HRSD, or take it somewhere else. SPSA currently has an excess of leachate at the landfill and is seeking options on what to do with it.

The SWIFT research center will be paid for with the rate-payers of HRSD, Henifin said. Rates aren’t expected to go up more than they already were.

The other project, a $1.35 million extensometer, is being funded through the General Assembly budget. It is expected to provide data on ground sinking in Virginia.

“This device will aid Suffolk and the region in our planning for the sea level rise we all know is coming,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said at Friday’s event.