News Feature | March 6, 2019

Virginia's Aquifer Recharge Project Receives Oversight Overhaul

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

An aquifer recharge plan in Virginia will now move forward under stricter legislative and scientific oversight.

The Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) hopes to refill the Potomac Aquifer with treated wastewater, as the aquifer’s water level has dropped 200 feet or more due to overuse from human consumption. Through Sustainable Water Infrastructure for Tomorrow (SWIFT), a water treatment project focused on protecting the environment, HSRD will treat wastewater to drinking water standards and inject it into the aquifer, instead of pumping it into nearby rivers.

Now, Senate Bill 1414 (which passed unanimously and was signed by the governor late last month) will establish government oversight for the project.

“The legislation establishes the Potomac Aquifer Recharge Oversight Committee,” The Virginia Gazette reported. “The group is required to meet at least every quarter during its first three years of existence, and HRSD would fund the committee during that time.”

The legislation will also establish the Potomac Aquifer Recharge Monitoring Laboratory, which will be conducted under the direction of faculty from Old Dominion University and Virginia Tech.

“The lab will monitor the project’s effect on the aquifer, manage test data and conduct testing and analysis of the water,” per the Gazette. “The lab will cost about $1 million every year. The committee is expected to have a financial need of less than $25,000 a year.”

It will still be a few months before either the committee or the laboratory are established. In the meantime, the district is working on plans for the program’s treatment facility.

“HSRD plans to build the program’s first full-scale treatment facility at an existing facility in James City by the end of 2023,” according to the Gazette. “The facility would inject about 8 million gallons of water a day into the aquifer. The [U.S.] EPA would have to provide a permit for the facility to operate.”

To move forward with the recharge plan, HSRD is working to obtain more land to expand equipment at the existing facility.

“The [HRSD] needs more land to make a proposed wastewater treatment plant a reality, and it has its eyes on a parcel of about 76 acres within the Carter’s Grove Agricultural and Forestal District,” per a previous Gazette report. “HRSD has said that while it wants ownership of the entire parcel, it anticipates that only seven acres would actually be cleared to make room for expanded facilities at the existing plant at 300 Springs Drive.”

To read more about treated wastewater recharge projects, visit Water Online’s Water Reuse Solutions Center.