The Noman M. Cole Jr. Pollution Control Plant (NCPCP) has been in operation, serving the Fairfax County community for 50 years, an impressive record.
On October 15, 1970, the county-owned wastewater treatment plant, originally known as the Lower Potomac Pollution Control Plant, went online providing secondary treatment that removed sediments, some nutrients, and oxygen demand with a capacity of 18 million gallons a day (MGD).
“This was a significant improvement over the dozens of smaller treatment plants it replaced,” said Mike McGrath, Director, Wastewater Treatment Division, “and it was an environmental turning point for Fairfax County.” The county then put short and long-term plans in place, demonstrating its commitment to protecting the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
Now, 50 years later, through continual improvements and pollution prevention efforts, Noman Cole is a 67 MGD wastewater treatment plant that uses advanced treatment technologies to reclaim water prior to its discharge into Pohick Creek. The plant is a 300-acre site with more than $500 million in treatment facilities that serves about 500,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in the southern half of Fairfax County.
The plant successfully operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year (24/7/365).
It has been awarded the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWAs) Platinum 21 Peak Performance Award. This award recognizes 21 consecutive years of consistently meeting or exceeding all discharge compliance requirements mandated under the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. This is one example that shows Fairfax County’s dedication to teamwork, permit compliance, pollution prevention and continuous improvements.
“This accomplishment is attributed to the many past and present employees who have dedicated their efforts to ensure that the Noman Cole Plant has protected and continues to protect the environment and human health,” McGrath said.
In the early 1980s, Gunston Cove, a freshwater embayment that receives the treated effluent (through Pohick Creek) from the NCPCP, was in poor condition with signs of advanced eutrophication* and low submerged aquatic vegetation. Study results over the last 35 years have allowed the simultaneous tracking of major improvements in water quality and aquatic habitat of the Cove that corresponds with significant treatment, conveyance and wastewater management enhancements at Noman Cole.
Additionally, Fairfax County implemented the Water Reuse initiative to reduce nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay, generate money for the community by selling reclaimed water to offset the overall cost for taxpayers, and conserve valuable drinking water. This landmark project provides 500 million gallons of reclaimed water (treated effluent) to an industrial facility and 24 million gallons to baseball fields and golf courses.
The Wastewater Management Program has achieved and maintained the Extraordinary Environmental Enterprise (E4) status awarded by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for the county’s commitment to superior environmental performance and environmental leadership. This is a testament to how the county works to protect, restore and enhance the environment and provide for the health, safety and well-being of those who live, work and visit Fairfax County.
*Eutrophication is the “increased load of nutrients to estuaries and coastal waters that causes harmful algal blooms, dead zones and fish kills,” according to the National Ocean Service, U.S. Department of Commerce.