Water Pollution Control Bureau Apologizes for Smell

by ARLnow.com May 10, 2012 at 10:15 am 4,655 52 Comments

Managers at the county’s Water Pollution Control Plant are apologizing for a stinky situation on Sunday.

Excessive odors were released from the sewage plant on S. Glebe Road due to an overripe load of “biosolids.” A letter to residents from the Water Pollution Control Bureau explains what went wrong:

On May 6, 2012, odors were released by the Water Pollution Control Plant. We apologize for this inconvenience and have investigated the issue. Due to coordination issues with truck ordering, timely truck delivery, and work in the dewatering building loading bays, a load of biosolids remained in a bin for several days. This overloaded the odor control system and resulted in odors being released.

Plant management has updated the procedures concerning truck ordering and coordination, loading times and procedures, and equipment monitoring to minimize the probability of a recurrence.

Significant progress has been made in the past two years with respect to addressing odor control at the plant. Staff continue to work to prevent/minimize odor releases and plant impact on local quality of life while maintaining viable plant operations.

Photo via Arlington County Department of Environmental Service.

  • Josh S

    As a former SimCity enthusiast, I wonder sometimes how this plant got put here in the first place. I don’t think it predates the residential neighborhood next door, does it?

    • ArLater

      +1 on the SimCity reference. Miss those days

    • daniel

      WPCP was built in the 1930s, according to the website. I clicked on a few houses close to the plant on Zillow that say 1952. The Internet is awesome.

      • ccres

        I live a few blocks from this place (hurrah) and our place was supposedly out of a sears catalog in 1923. I can’t imagine there was too much else going on down there at the time though which could explain the placement.

        • drax

          Cheap available land downstream, low-income neighbors, pre-war sewage loads = you get a sewage plant.

        • daniel

          I’m clicking random houses that are directly adjacent to the property, and a couple within that neighborhood…earliest was 1940. Anyone have a date for the Army Corps of Engineers project on that stretch of Four Mile Run? I’ve heard some terrible stories about flooding down there.

          Still…I’m not sure what the point of this conversation is…where else would you put a plant today? Forget the $568 million investment.

          • drax

            Good point about floods. Development in the 40s and 50s in the 4MR watershed caused bad flooding downstream. I think a flood is what took out Luna Park, the amusement park that was at the plant site.

          • 5555624

            The flooding caused by Hurricane Agnes, in 1972, led to the Army Corps of Engineers project.

    • Keith

      Stuff flows downhill. Would you expect to see the sewage plant on Minor’s Hill?

    • Michael H.

      There’s no great place to put a water treatment plant in a densely-populated area like Arlington. Unless the County could somehow strike a deal to send all of the untreated sewage to a neighboring jurisdiction and let them handle it. But I doubt Alexandria (or Fairfax County) would go along with that.

      • Sure there is!

        Days Inn on S. Glebe. Perfect Site.

  • Arlington Cat

    This stinks.

  • j

    you said “biosolids”.

    • HughJassPhD


  • Roycroft

    That plant used to stink all the time before they put in the odor control system. I remember being down in that area in the 80’s and wondering how anyone could live near it as it just reeked of sh^t.


    Well gotta give them credit for fessing up and issuing an apology. No ones perfect!

    • Dude Where’s My Car

      Indeed. A load of biosolids happens.

  • JimPB

    What happens to the feces and other organic waste that is removed during treatment of the waste water?

    • j

      How is bologna made?

    • Thes

      Here is your answer from the government of Virginia. The Biosolids Lifecycle,

      • Dude Where’s My Car

        Yikes. That was like reading “How to Explain Soylent Green to Your Children.”

        • WeiQiang

          Biosolids is people.

    • Dude Where’s My Car

      It is treated and concentrated and then broadcast on Fox News.

      • HughJassPhD

        Actually I think your thinking of someone’s so-called “evolving beliefs”.

      • Kiffee


      • zzzSleeper


    • Michael H.

      It’s treated first. Then it’s often converted into some type of fertilizer product.

  • HughJassPhD

    My bad on all the ripe biosolids. I went to Hard Times Cafe for their Cincinnati Wet the night before.

  • sammy

    my bad

  • Josh S

    I also note the existence of a slip lane in this photo that probably needs to be removed. Especially since it’s so close to the infamous Arl Ridge Rd slip lane removed last year……

    (by the way, how many cars have tipped over making that right so far?)

    • Louis Lane

      Yeah, wouldn’t mind seeing a one-year revisit article. Is that JammingEcono dude still around here? Can’t remember if he was for or against, just that he issued about 100 comments on it. (Guess I would too if I lived there.)

      All I have noticed is that there seem to be more cars coming from whatever that little side street is just north of E. Glebe (just south of that intersection). Not sure if people are using that road because they don’t like the new intersection or not.

  • WeiQiang

    Where’s the $350K fence-art going?

  • CW

    Ehh, this is nothing, I was going over the Key Bridge last night in the downpour and could smell the “combined sewer overflow points” of D.C. discharging their biosolids into the Potomac en masse.

    • Arlington, Northside

      From Key Bridge you could? Blue Plaines if five miles down river from there, not sure how you would have smelled it.

      • Smithers

        When it rains hard enough in DC, it overwhelms the sewage system and you get untreated sewage in the storm drains. Lots of signs along the Capital Crescent trail about that.

      • nom de guerre

        About 35% of DC utilizes combined sewers serving both sanitary flow and stormwater drainage. This type is prevalent in the downtown area and in older portions of the service areas. Combined sewer overflow is common during storm events and there are currently 53 overflow locations with at least 7 in the vicinity of Key Bridge.

        • CW

          Yeah, what he said. Stand next to one of the “Caution, crap may come blasting forth out of this pipe when it rains” signs, and see for yourself.

          • BlueSkies

            I saw a well-dressed, refined-looking couple strolling the riverwalk at Georgetown the other day, and they stopped to read a brown sign and learn a little more about that lovely park. Of course it was a sewage overflow sign. The look on the woman’s face was priceless.

      • drax

        There are combined sewage overflow pipes as far upstream as Rock Creek. Yeah, he could smell them from there.

  • Arlington, Northside

    I wish they would go back to selling the “bio-solids” under the ComPro brand. That s**t was awesome for the lawn! Bunch of busybodies had to get its residential sales banned, and now they just spray it all over the national and state forests in southern Virginia.

    • nom de guerre

      ComPro and its sister product, Leafgro are still available. They both are produced by Montgomery County but are not the same product that was discontinued in 1999. The original product contained sterilized biosolids from Montgomery County’s wastewater treatment facilities. Arlington used to incinerate its leftover biosolids prior to the practice of shipping it out for the purposes you mentioned

      Additionally, the odor control measures that were originally used about 10 years ago in Arlington consisted of “filtering” the gases through water with limited results. This could have been predicted by anyone who has ever farted in a swimming pool or a bathtub.

      • CW

        I have heard that Sam’s Corner has installed a new system by which it filters the cooking gases from its fume hoods through a two-pass activated charcoal and water pebble-bed filter so as to mitigate adverse olfactory impacts upon the community.

        • nom de guerre

          Speaking of Sam’s Corner and its state of the art, LEED Certified cooking odor filtration system, today’s daily special featured slow roasted pulled Berkshire pork shoulder infused with Dr. Pepper and roasted garlic on a poppy seed Kaiser roll with a red and green cabbage broccoli slaw in a lime and cilantro vinaigrette.

          The reasoning behind the installation of the odor filtration/mitigation system was three-fold. One was as you said, a service to the community; another was to protect the fragile Clarendon environment, accumulate LEED points and qualify for financial incentive/tax breaks; and lastly it was to prevent the business from being overwhemed by the hordes of customers who would smell the cooking of our hot sandwiches.

          • drax

            Building that new system also brought 75 new jobs to Arlington.

  • Smithers

    This headline reads like The Onion to me.

    • Mr. Mann

      “Arlington Shocked to Discover Its S**t Does Stink After All”

  • Simple Jack

    Excessive odors?? That place has been kicking out poop stank ever since I can remember.

    I shudder to think what qualifies as ‘excessive’!?

  • YTK

    Only NOW they’re apologizing for the smell?

  • M

    An “overripe load of ‘biosolids’” on Sunday is perhaps to be expected, given that Saturday was Cinco de Mayo – those refried beans have to end up somewhere.

  • Kevin

    Just another screw-up at the wastewater treatment plant. My neighbor works there.

  • nom de guerre

    And that means you live next to a screw-up?

  • llk

    Police and fire departments operate efficiently in Arlington on weekends. The rest of county government – maybe.


Subscribe to our mailing list