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County News

Posted on: April 21, 2020

Celebrating the Marvel of Clean Water on Earth Day 2020


Do you ever wonder what happens to your water when you flush it or drain it? Stafford County takes care of that for you, and on Earth Day tomorrow, we ask that you work with us to continue to make the most of this precious resource. With a growing population and rising demand for water, Stafford understands the importance of extending our water supply through proper wastewater management. We all play a role in the wastewater treatment process, and our actions not only affect us but the wildlife that depend on our waterways.

The wastewater treatment process uses advanced waste treatment techniques to return water to Stafford County’s waterways safely.  Stafford has 541 miles of sewer lines, 96 pumping stations and two treatment plants that collect wastewater from homes and businesses and deliver it the plants for treatment. Both the Little Falls Run and Aquia Wastewater Treatment Facilities are built to clean wastewater for discharge into streams and other receiving water for reuse.

The first stage of the treatment process involves collecting the wastewater in tanks where oxygen is introduced to it. This process, aeration, causes “sludge,” grease, oils and soap, to the surface of the water. A slow-moving rake skims the solids, and the sludge is placed in a tank where naturally occurring bacteria – nature’s little helpers – break down the material and eliminate disease-causing organisms. Water is drained from the sludge, and it is taken to the Regional Landfill or used for cheap fertilizer. The remaining liquid wastewater is filtered again.

The second stage of the process is the disinfection stage. Wastewater flows through a channel where high powered UV lights destroy 99.9% of bacteria and pathogens. Stafford County must adhere to the Chesapeake Bay effluent guidelines, which require exceptional performance. By the end of this treatment, the purified, clean water can be discharged safely into Stafford waterways. Indeed, the true nature of the water is reflected in the wildlife that is found in the effluents, or streams, exiting the Stafford County treatment plants. A little more than what you wanted to know, but very worthwhile to know nonetheless.

“We have fish in our effluent; herring and shad flow up our stream, and we have eggs in the effluent trough,” said Ed Hayner, Plant Manager at Aquia Wastewater Treatment Facility. “As well, on any given day, you can see deer, turtles and other wildlife in our waterways, benefiting from the clean water.”

Indeed, bald eagles had almost disappeared from the Rappahannock and the Potomac in the 1970s. Clean water laws and Stafford’s devotion to excellent water practices have helped improve the health of our waters. Now, you can see eagles up and down both rivers.

To do your part, do not flush anything but toilet paper and human waste. Put fats, oils and grease in trash cans, not in drains. “Flushable” wipes do not disintegrate fast enough and bind together with fats to create “fatbergs” that clog and damage water infrastructure.

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