By Connor Andrews and Arthur Halliday
Many people can recognize the Crozet Water Treatment Plant and its sedimentation ponds along Rt. 240, but to many the Crozet system itself and what actually happens in the plant is a mystery.
“Crozet’s system is set up so that we pump water from a pump station by the dam to here, the water plant. We do a lot of different things here to the water according to the regulations set up by the Department of Health,” explained plant manager Randy Jones.
The Crozet Water Treatment plant was built in 1968 and a lot of the system was built around the same time. Although the treatment plant itself has been renovated over time, “the building’s pretty much the same as when it was built,” said Jones, but “the people are better at what they do. They’re better trained, and they’re better qualified.” Jones has been working with the treatment plant for 30 years, and his brother, Ricky Jones, has been working there for 25 years. The main differences, other than the experienced employees, have been the use of better chemicals than those that were available in the first years of the plant’s existence.
“The Crozet system uses a surface water supply. Not ground water. The treatment requirements for surface water are much more stringent than for ground water,” said Jones about the source of the water. Once the water is pumped into the treatment system, it undergoes a chemical treatment that chlorinates it and puts it through a filter to clean the water.
“It will lose its harmful bacteria in the coagulation process, which actually takes the particles of dirt out of the water and forms what we call floc. Once these form, we slow the process down and the particles settle down to the bottom of the basin, which is what we call sedimentation,” said Jones.
“Our primary coagulant here is aluminum sulfate,” said Jones. “Once the coagulation is done and the pH levels are where they want them to be, the water is run through filters. The filters are designed to take out fine particles, not stuff you really see,” said Jones, “It’s called high rate filtration. We have a kind of filter where we can do two gallons per square foot per minute. We have a capacity of approximately a million gallons a day.” Of this number, only about 510,000 gallons per day are in demand for this system.
Most of this water isn’t used for drinking when it arrives at the houses and buildings throughout Crozet. “Most of it’s used in the bathroom for showers and flushing the toilet,” said Jones, “However, we treat all the water like you’re going to be drinking it.”
Once the water has gone through the treatment process, it goes down to the pump station and is pumped throughout Crozet. “The waterline goes up to Crozet past the old Con Agra building where it splits. One line goes towards Crozet Park, and the other goes up into Crozet then comes up to the water tank where there is a million gallons of storage,” said Jones.
On the other side of Rt. 240, across from the Crozet Water Treatment Plant, are two basins full of water. “That water is sludge water that builds up. What we do is decant that water, and send it down to Beaver Creek. A couple times a year we get sludge trucks in and get what’s left out of there,” said Jones. “Most of it is just Albemarle County red clay.”
Crozet’s water supply is in a very stable situation for today, and there is not immediate concern about whether the water supply can handle the growing population.
“They’re not projecting, at the current level of usage, a flow-through of one million gallons per day before 2065. In the worst of times, we can pull through 1.5 million gallons a day now. We’ve got a large margin of safety.” Jones explained, adding that Crozet is also safe from drought “because the reservoir’s surface area is so large, it would take a tremendous drought to knock it down very far. There will be plenty of water here for the foreseeable future.”