Search Potomac Sites
Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant
Regional Wastewater Plant
Across the river from Alexandria is the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, the largest advanced treatment plant in the world. The plant treats an average of more than 300 million gallons per day of wastewater from the District, Maryland, and Virginia suburbs, as well as millions of gallons of runoff from city streets. The city had no sewage treatment whatsoever for most of its early years--and as a result, the Potomac and Anacostia became horribly polluted. Sanitary conditions were dismal in the city itself; the "decorative canals" planned for the mall area became nothing more than sewers filled with trash. In the years after the Civil War, the city expanded, but conditions grew only worse; cholera epidemics and disease were rampant. Beginning in the 1880s, the city built a system of sewers that led to the Potomac, but it was not until the 1930s that any of the sewage was treated. A sewage treatment plant was built on the Blue Plains site in 1938, providing primary (settling) treatment. Later growth of the city saw continued pollution problems. It was not until the 1960s that the region really took hold of its pollution problems, got federal funding, and built a greatly expanded Blue Plains plant. The plant has finally reached the completion of its advanced features, and the river has shown the dramatic results. (Photo: AECOM, Inc.).