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D.C. Wastewater Treatment Plant To Make Electricity From Waste

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The Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest plant in the world. It has the capacity to treat 370 million gallons of sewage a day.
D.C. Water and Sewer Authority
The Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest plant in the world. It has the capacity to treat 370 million gallons of sewage a day.

A sprawling construction site extends into the distance behind George Hawkins, the head of D.C.'s Water and Sewer Authority.

"What we're building here will be the largest source of clean renewable energy in Washington, D.C.," he says.

The $400 million project will use what's called thermal hydrolysis and anaerobic digestion. That means the plant will cook and sterilize a lot of what we flush down the toilet, and then break it down with bacteria to generate methane gas. The clean burning gas, in turn, is used to fuel turbines that then loop back to help power the digester.

"This is the largest installation in the world, and we're gonna generate enough power to light up 8000 homes, we'll use all that energy here," Hawkins says.

In the process, the plant cuts its solid waste output in half and saves $10 million a year in electricity bills. An additional $1 billion upgrade will use a different set of bacteria to remove nitrogen from the waste, cutting nitrogen output in half as well.

D.C. Water says it's improved bacteria-driven waste treatment system will be completed in 2014, and the upgrades will also make the plant smell better.

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