Regional wastewater treatment plant deals with deluge

Roanoke Regional Water Pollution Control Plant processed or stored 160 million gallons in a 24-hour period last week

POSTED: 07:42 PM EDT Jul 12, 2013    UPDATED: 07:59 PM EDT Jul 12, 2013 
Roanoke Regional Water Pollution Control Plant

Visit the Roanoke Regional Water Pollution Control Plant today, and it appears to be business as usual.

Huge screw pumps lift the waste water as it enters the plant. And several different processes filter and treat the water on its way to the Roanoke River.

But don't let appearances fool you. Operations Superintendent Mike Doss says it's been hectic.

"You're constantly trying to think ahead of the rain event," Doss said in an interview. "The harder the rain the faster it's going to come in so the quicker you have to react, so it's a non-stop process of watching, dealing with it, and just trying to keep up."

Automation has made it easier to keep up. A major upgrade in 2005 storm-proofed the plant and increased its capacity.  Improvements were expensive, more than 50 million dollars, but the plant is better able to handle the kind of weather we've seen in the last week.

"When the river got up to 14 feet like it did the other day, the plant would have been flooded," said Western Virginia Water Authority Executive Director Mike McEvoy. "We would have seen flooding problems at the plant. Most of that water would have bypassed the plant. Most of the sewage would have bypassed the plant."

The facility has an interesting problem when the river rises as high as it has in the last week: getting the treated water back into the river.  A construction project now under way includes a new pump station that will help keep the water flowing out of the plant even when the Roanoke River is running fast and high.