Transforming Waste into Power

BREAKING NEWS: DC Water® Unveils Largest Wastewater Treatment Plant in the World! This is especially exciting if you are from D.C. and the surrounding suburbs; now whenever you flush the toilet you will be contributing to the production of renewable energy.

I’m talking about the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant: the first Thermal Hydrolysis Wastewater Treatment Plant in North America, which was unveiled two days ago. The plant is located along the Potomac River and aims to improve the conditions of the river and the Chesapeake Bay by releasing cleaner water than ever before. Its most prized accomplishment? Turning your “number two” into energy. This unique process called thermal hydrolysis was created by a Norwegian company Cambi, but is the first of its kind in North America.



  • It serves more than two million Washington metro area customers
  • It has the capacity to treat 370 million gallons of sewage a day
  • It contains 1,800 miles of pipes
  • Its turbines produce a net 10 MW of electricity, which can power 8,000 homes


  • After traditional primary, secondary, and tertiary treatments, liquids and solids have been separated and all organic matter and grit have been removed


  • Filtration polishes the water even more with multimedia filters of sand and anthracite to remove fine particles
  • After the flow is disinfected with chlorine to kill pathogens, the water is ready to flow to the Potomac, cleaner than the river itself


  • Thermal hydrolysis uses high heat and pressure to “pressure cook” leftover solids, eliminating harmful bacteria and preparing the solids for anaerobic digestion
  • During digestion, organic matter is converted to methane, which is captured and fed to three turbines to produce clean, green renewable power
  • Digestion converts half the solids to gas, the other half are Class A biosolids which are distributed around the city as a soil enhancer for urban parks, gardens, and restoration projects

Now that’s some waste not wasted.

This sustainable solution tackles the issues of water quality, energy production, and waste management with one system; a glowing example of 21st century technology. D.C. Water officials say the $470 million system, which took four years to build, will end up paying for itself and shrink the plant’s overall carbon footprint by one-third (Washington Post). Now that the system has been brought to American soil you can bet more of these treatment plants will be popping up around the country. Props to DC Water® for leading the way.

Click here to watch a detailed tour of the plant!



Sources: District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority;, Washington Post;

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