Virgina’s Governor Timothy M. Kaine joined executives from Philip Morris USA to announce a $6 million project aimed at further reducing nutrient levels in wastewater discharged into the James River from the company’s Park 500 tobacco processing facility in Chesterfield County.
Over the next year, PM USA, in partnership with CH2M Hill, a Denver-based construction and engineering firm, will design, build and activate the Park 500 Natural Treatment System, 48-acres of man-made wetlands consisting of ponds and native vegetation. The system will supplement an existing on-site treatment plant, providing an additional, natural filter for treated wastewater before it returns to the river.
By flowing wastewater through the Natural Treatment System before discharge, PM USA estimates additional reductions of about 13 percent for nitrogen levels and 34 percent for phosphorus levels, based on an initial study by CH2M Hill. The Park 500 Natural Treatment System is projected to be the largest such project in Virginia.
“This is an exciting announcement for Virginia’s environment, and I appreciate Philip Morris’ decision to apply this new technology to help better manage our natural resources,” Governor Kaine said. “This represents an innovative and proactive approach by a corporate citizen to respond to the complex problem of nitrogen discharge into our waterways.”
When the Natural Treatment System is completed in the summer of 2008, treated wastewater will slowly cascade through a series of ponds interspersed with native trees and shrubs. Plant life and natural microbes will break down nutrients in wastewater before it finally reaches the river. Nearly 1.8 million gallons of treated wastewater a day will nourish the 48-acre wetlands; the wetlands will filter the wastewater, further cleansing it of nutrients.
Park 500 reconstitutes loose tobacco into tobacco sheets for manufacturing. Water used in the process collects substances such as nitrogen and phosphorous, nutrients which occur naturally in agricultural products like tobacco. According to the Environmental Protection Agency and other experts, excessive levels of these nutrients in water eco-systems can cause algae blooms and other adverse impacts on aquatic life, impairing healthy rivers and bays.