United for Infrastructure Week
Published 6:23 pm Friday, May 7, 2021
To the editor:
Sound public infrastructure is critical to our quality of life, our safety, and the economic vitality of the region. Infrastructure not only includes roads, bridges, rail, air and transit systems and our ports, but also the extensive system of largely unseen utilities that provide clean water and carry away and effectively treat wastewater for our communities. For some, it is easy to take all of this infrastructure for granted, since much of it has been in place for many years and, in some cases, remains unseen by its users — out of sight and out of mind. However, when these critical systems fail or do not perform as intended, our day-to-day activities and way of life can suffer — February’s power grid failure in Texas during extreme weather conditions is a recent prevailing example.
HRSD was formed in the 1940s to address water quality concerns in Hampton Roads. As the regional wastewater agency, HRSD is responsible for conveying and treating about 150 million gallons of wastewater each day from 20 communities in Southeastern Virginia. HRSD takes a regional perspective to address these wastewater challenges, operating more than 500 miles of buried pipe, numerous pump stations and 17 wastewater treatment plants. This infrastructure is financed by the wastewater fees paid by local ratepayers, allowing significant economies of scale as the costs to maintain the wastewater system are shared by all.
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The link between wastewater treatment and water quality in the lower Chesapeake Bay and tributaries is an important and vital connection. A healthy Bay is directly tied to regional economic drivers like tourism and commercial and recreational fishing, along with many other sports and leisure activities.
Through one of its latest infrastructure efforts, HRSD continues its vision of ensuring future generations will inherit clean waterways and be able to keep them clean with its innovative biosolids management program at the Atlantic Treatment Plant. Biosolids are a beneficial product of the treatment process, and with the improvements recently completed at this plant, they can be used to improve the soil for farmers throughout the region. HRSD installed a process known as “thermal hydrolysis” to create a pathogen-free final biosolids product. This infrastructure project took eight years to carefully plan, design and construct and is only the second of its kind in the nation. It will more than double the capacity of the biosolids processing at this location, and this investment will provide a sustainable and valuable product. Creation of this product will reduce the need to incinerate biosolids and limit the need to use landfills for this product.
As HRSD invests in infrastructure throughout Hampton Roads, we will continue to address some of the most pressing water quality challenges facing our region.
HRSD Director of Engineering