Starting in May, more than 400 million gallons of reclaimed water will be used as coolant at the I-95 Energy Resource Recovery Facility, and millions of gallons will go to the South County Little League fields at and the .
Reclaimed water isn't filtered enough to be drinkable, but that wouldn't stop Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D) from taking a sip. "I would drink it, even though it might not be quite as good as regular drinking water," he recently told Patch. "I'm just tickled pink that we found a way to capture and reuse that water other than putting it in the Potomac or Chesapeake Bay. This is a major way that we're going to make Route 1 into a green energy corridor."
In May, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will cut the ribbon on the new reclaimed water project at the Noman M. Cole Jr. Pollution Control Plant, which is located at 9399 Richmond Highway and began operating in 1970. The $6.5 million project began in 2009, and was funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Five miles of purple piping will transfer about 24 million gallons a year to the golf course and seven million gallons will go to the Little League fields, instead of it going into Pohick Creek, a tributary to the Chesapeake.
Why Reclaimed Water?
With an increasing population and more water being used, cities in California, Texas and Oklahoma are finding ways to divert wastewater with reuse technologies. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences highlights a growing need.
"Approximately 12 million gallons of municipal wastewater effluent is discharged each day to an ocean or estuary out of the 32 billion gallons per day discharged nationwide," according to the report. "Reusing these coastal discharges would directly augment available water resources."
What does that mean for Fairfax County?
"For one thing, reclaimed water reduces harmful nutrients that are discharged in the Chesapeake and the Potomac," said Michael McGrath, director of the Wastewater Treatment Division of the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. "We also anticipate that it will save clients 25 percent [in costs] than they would otherwise have [spent] using potable water."
South County Little League will pay no cost for the water for five years due to a longstanding agreement with the county.
The Fairfax County Park Authority, which owns the Laurel Hill Golf Course, will pay between $25,000 and $50,000 a year for the water. The course reportedly uses about 20 million gallons a year for irrigation.
"The revenue [from businesses that use the water] will be used to help offset maintenance costs," McGrath said, adding that there is room to grow. "I think it will take us about 10 years to get to full capacity, which is 45 million gallons of reused water a day."