Scoring Big in Reducing Pollution

by Bob Chominski

Photo credit: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Photo credit: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Think of a ball, and you’ll probably think of sports. When I think of sports, I think of golf, with its frustrating little ball that you have to hit down the middle of the fairway to a flag far off in the distance.  When it comes to hitting a golf ball over a water hazard, usually the water hazard wins, with the ball making a sickening plop in the water.

But there is one type of ball being used in the Mid-Atlantic Region that floats…which is a good thing. The Craig-New Castle Public Service Authority in Roanoke, Virginia has 200,000 floating black plastic balls (not golf balls) in their waste water treatment plant lagoon that are scoring big in reducing pollution.

The Authority has had a problem with algae and duckweed growing in their lagoon. When the algae died, they settled to the bottom of the lagoon, causing an increase in the amount of  Total Suspended Solids (TSS) that were discharged to nearby creeks .

Too much TSS can adversely impact water quality and harm aquatic vegetation and aquatic life, so discharge permits usually have strict TSS limits. So by installing the light-shielding balls into the lagoon to prevent algae and duckweed growth, the Authority dramatically reduced TSS, and maintained compliance with its permit limits.

The UV-stabilized high-density polyethylene balls have an estimated life span of 20 years, and cost 28 cents each.  This was significantly cheaper than other alternatives considered by the Authority. As a bonus, there are no operation and maintenance costs (other than kicking an errant ball back in the lagoon from time to time) and the balls don’t require any power to operate.

So a big “high five” to the Authority for its innovative strategy to control pollution and to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Clean Water Financing and Assistance Program for using EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving funds to pay for the balls.  Now only if they could only help my golf game!


 About the author: Bob Chominski is the Deputy Associate Director of the Water Protection Division’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. Away from work, he enjoys snow skiing and working around his house and yard.



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