Virginia towns use private partner for new wastewater treatment service

John Johnson
Vice President
Sheaffer International, LLC

On September 13 the mayors of two Virginia towns, Broadway and Timberville, helped cut the ribbon on a unique wastewater reclamation and reuse system. The system will provide the towns with wastewater treatment service and substantial surplus capacity to accommodate future growth.

While there are many interesting aspects to the project, perhaps most intriguing is the fact that the towns did not invest one dime of their own money in capital construction costs for the $11 million facility. Instead, Sheaffer International, LLC contracted with the towns and two neighboring poultry processing plants to design, finance, and build the facility and to also own and operate it for 25 years.

Sheaffer used $8.5 million in Industrial Development Bonds and approximately $2.5 million in grant money to finance the project. The project qualified for grant money from the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund because it ended the annual discharge of over 200,000 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorous to the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

The debt service and operations and maintenance costs are the major components of the service fee paid by the two towns and the two poultry processing plants to Sheaffer. Each entity contracted with Sheaffer for a certain treatment capacity in the system and their contracts stipulate the maximum strength of the wastewater to be treated.

Before joining the Sheaffer system, Broadway was facing a requirement from the state of Virginia to upgrade their aging wastewater treatment plant to meet more rigorous discharge standards. After careful consideration of various options, they elected the Sheaffer system as their most cost-effective option. "This project came along at just the right time for the town of Broadway," said Broadway Mayor Wanda Wilt. "We were going to have to spend an estimated million dollars on our facility. Now we have all the benefits of the Sheaffer system, and we don't have to worry about construction or even operating a wastewater treatment facility."

The town of Timberville had been using its own small, activated sludge plant for wastewater treatment and was not facing any mandates for change or upgrades. However, the plant was costly to run and did not have a great deal of surplus capacity. The town found they could both save money and increase their capacity by joining with Sheaffer. "The new Sheaffer wastewater treatment facility is a cost-effective solution for Timberville and will benefit us in two ways," said Timberville Mayor Charles McCauley. First, it will cost us less than operating our own wastewater treatment plant, and second, we can now accommodate both population and business growth."

Sheaffer's approach to wastewater treatment is that wastewater should be managed as a valuable resource, rather than as a pollutant to be disposed of, according to Sheaffer Vice President John Johnson. "Water and nutrients are too valuable to throw away," Johnson said. "We have farmers praying for rain and paying for fertilizer at the same time that towns and industries are spending millions of dollars to try and shoehorn their wastewater into the river and send it to the bay and ocean as quickly as possible. What's wrong with this picture?"

The Broadway/Timberville project involves three pump stations and over two miles of collection main to convey the wastewater from the towns and poultry companies to the Sheaffer treatment site. After using the Sheaffer treatment process, which essentially eliminates odors and sludge from the treatment process, a pump station delivers the reclaimed water through almost eight miles of pipeline to six farms with eight center pivot and two linear irrigation rigs covering 530 acres. A storage reservoir at the treatment site holds the water for up to 120 days during inclement weather.

While Sheaffer has designed more than 60 reclamation and reuse systems in 10 states, the Broadway/Timberville project is the first system that Sheaffer will own and operate. Johnson said the company hopes to develop many more similar public/private partnerships, specifically targeting small to medium sized towns and industries with 1-5 million gallons per day wastewater flow. They are in the permitting stage on their second project in Marshville, North Carolina that will have two million gallons per day treatment capacity and will serve the town and a local poultry processing plant.

Many small and medium sized towns across the country have aging wastewater treatment plants that were installed in the 1970s. As discharge standards continue to tighten, many of these towns are faced with requirements to upgrade the facilities. "With a conventional NPDES discharge permit you run the risk of changes every five years when the permit comes up for renewal," said Johnson. "You continually face the possibility of investing more capital to upgrade your treatment. We hope to offer towns and industries a permanent solution, which we will finance, build, own and operate. In addition, the rivers and streams will be cleaner and local farmers will enjoy drought-free farming."

"I would like to congratulate Sheaffer International, the Town of Timberville, the Town of Broadway, WLR Foods, and Rocco/Shadybrook for having the courage and resolve to bring this ambitious project to fruition," said John Paul Woodley, Jr., Secretary of Natural Resources, at the recent grand opening of the North Fork Sheaffer Modular Reclamation and Reuse System. "This facility represents a remarkable achievement that shows a strong commitment to the environment that deserves to be admired and applauded."

For more information, contact John Johnson at 540-896-6173 or