A massive project by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) has the potential to be a game changer for Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) compliance for MS4 permitees. When complete in 2030, HRSD’s project SWIFT (www.swiftva.com) will treat all the sewage from HRSD to drinking water standards and inject the treated water into groundwater aquifers.
The main benefits to this project are that millions of pounds of nitrigen, phosphorus, and total suspended solids will no longer be discharged to the York and Lower James watersheds and injecting water into groundwater aquifers should result in a decrease or reversal of sinking land elevations.
HRSD plans to fund the projected $5 billion cost by raising sewage rates. In exchange, HRSD will give credits to the cities and counties which make up their service area. If allowed by DEQ, these MS4 permittees will be able achieve Cheasepeake Bay TMDL compliance at no additional cost. Even after satisfying the 100% TMDL requirements, HRSD will still have a considerable amount of credits to sell to other MS4 permitees in the James and York watersheds. With so many credits coming to the market, prices of credits may decrease significantly for other permitees in these basins. There is discussion that DEQ could allow the credits generated by HRSD to be used by permittees in other watersheds.
The SWIFT project impacts only the lower James River, the York River, and southern end of the Chesapeake Bay. It does not effect water quality in the middle or upper Chesapeake Bay, the James River upstream of Williamsburg, or the many other rivers in Virginia. Real water quality improvements will still be required to meet local TMDLs not impacted by this project.