A new wastewater treatment plant on the Loudoun County Parkway will produce water so clean it could be bottled and sold as drinking water.
While that plan isn't in the works for the new Broad Run Water Reclamation Facility, a plant in Singapore using the same state-of-the-art technology does sell its recycled water.
The $200 million facility will feature a slew of technological innovations that will result in super-clean treated water and a neighborhood-friendly design, all while avoiding a rate increase for customers — at least, for now. Three and a half years of construction won’t cost users a dime, but operations will eventually require Loudoun County Sanitation Authority's first rate increase since 1992, according to Samantha Villegas, LCSA manager of communications. By that point, however, the county's projected population increase should spread out the cost and keep the rate hike minimal.
In the meantime, the Broad Run facility will represent the pinnacle of wastewater treatment technology as the only plant of its kind on the east coast.
"We are prepared to go to the limits of technology for biological nutrient removal," said LCSA general manager Dale Hammes at the July 29 official groundbreaking ceremony.
"It will be one of the finest plants that was ever built," said LCSA chairman John Rocca. "It will be purely awesome." He added that he had 19 pounds of paperwork on the project, which was 15 years in the making from land purchase to groundbreaking.
THE FACILITY will be constructed on a 340-acre swath of land in Ashburn that will eventually hold all of LCSA's offices, which are now located in Leesburg. Buildings will rest on approximately 75 of those acres; the remainder will have other functions such as an outdoor interpretation area, plus an untouched 135 acres of floodplain.
Currently, LCSA pipes an average of 11 million gallons of wastewater per day to Washington, D.C.'s Blue Plains facility. That's an average of 75-100 gallons of water used a day by the 130,000 Loudoun residents in LCSA's coverage area.
In its first years, the Broad Run facility will treat only part of the county's wastewater, but after 15 years of operation, the facility will be able to handle 20 million gallons per day - enough for 200,000 adult residents.
Because the Broad Run location will also house LCSA's administrative offices, the site won't just be a jumble of water treatment plants, according to Hammes.
"This is not going to be your typical wastewater treatment plant consisting of large concrete blocks," he said. The facility will have a functional, but attractive, office park visage with careful odor-controlling elements to prevent neighbors like the Washington Redskins training camp and soon-to-be-built subdivisions from turning up their noses.
"We will be good neighbors," Hammes said.
Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) wants to see the facility become an educational community center for Loudoun children, who can learn about the cycle of water.
"What a way for our school kids to come and learn firsthand about water," she said. "What happens when you turn on a faucet? What happens when you flush?"
KIDS WILL BENEFIT in a more instant-gratification kind of way, too — 30 acres of LCSA land won't be needed for years, and in the meantime the parcel can be used for sports fields.
The facility will also be a good neighbor to Broad Run, which will receive the treated water through a series of ponds, and by association, the Chesapeake Bay, which eventually receives everything that flows from Broad Run. Top-quality membrane filtration technology will keep nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the treated water to 3 milligrams per liter and .1 milligrams per liter, respectively — considerably lower than average treated wastewater. Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus is damaging to the bay's fragile ecosystem.
"We managed to crap it up — no pun intended — and we managed to clean it up," said Rocca, whose heritage is Native American. He expressed his pride in the new facility's ability to treat the earth kindly.
"Yes, we lived on this land," he said. "But I don't think one of my ancestors would be upset with what we're doing on this land."