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Hampton Roads Sanitation District: utility of the future

Hampton Roads Sanitation District: Utility of the Future

During last month’s Vancouver Pretreatment Conference we were excited to hear Mike Martin speak from the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD). He traveled over 3,000 miles to join and HRSD services a population of 1.7 million, so we knew it would be interesting. 

The presentation explained how the Hampton Roads Sanitation District received and continues to expand on their 2016 designation as a ‘Utility of the Future’. This Utility of the Future title is based on the following criteria:

Organizational Culture

Focusing on a culture of inclusion, continuous improvement, and employee engagement, HRSD offers three separate classroom training opportunities for their 800 + employees including 27 Pretreatment employees. They also host annual planning days that strip away titles and give everyone a seat at the table to brainstorm new ideas and priorities. 

Community Partnering & Engagement

HRSD has launched multiple initiatives to connect with the community. These include:

– Pilot program for pharmaceutical take back
– Partnerships with local universities to research topics such as emerging contaminants and PCB’s
– Boater educational outreach, utilizing interns to educate the public to not dump their sewage holding tanks in the waterways and offer complimentary pumping. Approximately 25,000 gallons were pumped between January – July 2019. 

Energy Efficiency, Generation & Recovery

Steps to streamline energy resources have been implemented, including:

– A FOG receiving station that took in 2.6 million gallons of Fats, Oils, and Grease waste from January – July 2019.
– Solar Panels installed on the roof of their SWIFT research center
– CAMBI Thermal Hydrolysis with potential expansion to receive high COD/BOD brewery wastewater 

Watershed Stewardship

Saving the best for last, the area where HRSD is really forward-thinking is it’s SWIFT Research Center. This stands for Sustainable Water Initiative For Tomorrow and is an innovative water treatment project created to address the challenges facing Virginia and Hampton Roads. 

How it works:

SWIFT takes highly treated water that would otherwise be discharged into the Elizabeth, James, or York rivers and puts it through an advanced water treatment process to meet drinking water standards. The SWIFT water is then added to the Potomac Aquifer. 

What it does:

Reduces Nitrogen and Phosphorous in the Chesapeake Bay
Replenishes groundwater supply
Fights sea level rise
Protects against saltwater intrusion
Supports Virginia’s economy


Since the research center opened in May 2018, over 100 million gallons of water has been recharged to the Potomac Aquifer.

Looking forward:

The construction of the first full-scale facility is planned to start in 2020. Project completion aimed for the 2030s, replenishing the Potomac aquifer with over 100 million gallons of SWIFT water/day.

Learn more about the SWIFT project and Hampton Roads Sanitation District

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