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Gerald Kirkbride, wastewater treatment plant supervisor, demonstrates how the new treatment plant at Camp Upshur on Marine Corps Base Quantico’s west side can be operated completely by the touch of a button. The new plant has been online since June 6 and replaces a plant that had been operational for 65 years.

Photo by Adele Uphaus-Conner

New treatment plant at Camp Upshur is environmentally friendly

30 Jun 2016 | Adele Uphaus-Conner Marine Corps Base Quantico

On June 6, the wastewater treatment plant at Camp Upshur aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, which has been operating since it was built in 1951, was finally given a rest. A new $12 million facility went online that day.

The plant was completed two years ago, but has been waiting for a certificate to operate from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

According to Gerald Kirkbride, wastewater treatment plant supervisor, the new plant upgrades the treatment from a sequencing batch reactor (SBR) process to a biological nutrient removal (BNR) process.

In SBR, oxygen is bubbled through wastewater to reduce organic matter. BNR further removes nitrogen and phosphorus from the wastewater so that it can be more safely discharged into ground water. (High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in treatment plant discharge can cause excessive algae bloom in surface waters, which in turn destroys ecosystems and causes the loss of plant and animal life.)

In the BNR process at Camp Upshur, Kirkbride explained, after the wastewater is aerated and allowed to settle so that solids fall to the bottom, it goes through sand filters to remove nitrogen. The water is then disinfected through ultraviolet radiation. At that point, it is clean enough to be released into nearby Cedar Run Creek or recycled back to the Camp Upshur truck wash—which Kirkbride said would probably happen more frequently. A storage tank at the new plant can hold up to 70,000 gallons of treated, disinfected water.

The new plant can treat 140,000 gallons of wastewater a day. That size can support a population of 20,000 troops.

“It was made as big as it is for expansion purposes,” Kirkbride explained. “In case the Marine Corps has to bring more troops out here, the plant will be able to handle them.”

Kirkbride said there are still kinks to be worked out, such as whether the plant will be used enough to sustain a population of bacteria necessary to effect the biodegration process. The microorganisms need a steady food source, which is difficult.

Kirkbride said that if necessary, a chemical or carbon food source can be added to maintain the population.

Marine Corps Base Quantico