Environmental Leadership Spring Break Trip

Environmental Leadership Blog Entry: Inside the Blue Plains Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant

Emily Constantian & Mikaela Gerry

On Monday, March 11th, the Environmental Leadership team visited the Blue Plains Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant, located just outside of Washington DC.  This is the largest wastewater treatment plant in the world, and serves customers in the DC metro area.  We were lucky to get a personal tour of the plant, and were especially lucky that it was a cool and rainy day, which kept the smells to a minimum.  The plant has the ability to treat nearly 400 million gallons of wastewater a day, at its maximum capacity.  On average, the plant treats around 200 million gallons of water per day.  There are many stations that the water passes through on its way through the plant.


The Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater treatment plant is critical in the efforts to clean up the Potomac River, which ultimately drains into the Chesapeake Bay.  Whenever Blue Plains experiences a leak, or the system overflows due to rainfall, raw sewage is discharged into the Potomac River, which has an extremely detrimental effect on the quality of the water.  When raw sewage is discharged into streams it can degrade marine organisms’ habitats as well as deplete the dissolved oxygen present in the water.  Further, a host of health problems, such as diarrhea, increased spread of infections, and fevers are associated with raw sewage being discharged into rivers.  Blue Plains is attempting to minimize the occurrence of raw sewage being discharged into the Potomac and Anacostia River by separating the sewer from the storm water pipes in order to dump only storm water back into the streams in the event of an overflow.  This would allow Blue Plains to primarily discharge only treated sewage back into the stream, and aid in the efforts to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.