Hampton Roads Aquifer Recharge Project Secures $ 477 Million EPA Loan

A Hampton Roads-wide project to recharge the Potomac Aquifer that supplies drinking water to much of Virginia’s population east of Interstate 95 last week received a $ 477 million loan. Environmental Protection Agency dollars.

Ted Henifin, general manager of the Hampton Roads health district, said in a press release that the loan will be used to close and replace the nearly 80-year-old man Boat Harbor Processing Plant with a pumping station as part of the Sustainable Water Infrastructure for Tomorrow program, or SWIFT.

In combination with other federally subsidized loans, the EPA price will reduce the district’s financing costs by nearly half a billion dollars over the next 30 years, Henifin said.

EPA pledged to issue $ 1 billion in low-interest loans to SWIFT over a decade, funding nearly half of the project’s costs through the federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The Hampton Roads Sanitation District received its first loan of nearly $ 226 million in September 2020.

Erin Girardi, head of the sanitation district investment program, said in an email that the third and final phase of the loan funds “is expected to close by the end of 2024 at the earliest.”

Under the terms of the loan, the project must be substantially completed within seven years of the loan closing. Girardi said the repayment terms “are very flexible.”

SWIFT has made national headlines since its inception. Encompassing more than 20 projects around Hampton Roads, the initiative treats wastewater to potable water standards, then injects it deep underground to recharge the Potomac aquifer.

Virginie was worry for decades about the aquifer supply, which was exposed by local governments and industries, especially the massive International Paper and WestRock mills in Franklin and West Point. Besides depleting water supplies, overexploitation has also contributed to land subsidence in the lowland region of Tidewater. This subsidence combined with rising sea levels due to climate change has led Hampton Roads to experience the fastest rate of sea level rise on the east coast, with tide data from Sewells Point in Norfolk showing a rise of over by 18 inches over the past century. .

In response to concerns, the Department of Environmental Quality has launched a campaign to reduce the amount of water that the 14 largest users of the Potomac Aquifer have been allowed to withdraw.

At the same time, SWIFT sought to tackle the aquifer problem by increasing supply. When fully constructed, the initiative should be able to inject 100 million gallons of water back into the aquifer each day. In addition to replenishment, the project aims to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by reducing wastewater discharges from the Hampton Roads Sewerage District by 90 percent.

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