What is the goal of wastewater treatment?
To help protect water supplies and public health by eliminating disease-causing bacteria and viruses from wastewater.

What do wastewater treatment plants do?
- Remove objects such as plastic, rags, sticks, and smaller particles
- Reduce pollutants and organic matter such as human and animal waste by using microorganisms
- Restore oxygen to the water, so that it can be returned to life-supporting rivers and lakes

How many gallons of wastewater are treated by HRRSA daily?
Approximately 13-14 million gallons per day

What is the design capacity of the North River WWTF?
23 million gallons per day

What is the collection area served by HRRSA?
The City of Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, and the Towns of Bridgewater, Dayton, and Mt. Crawford in Virginia.

What testing is performed on the wastewater?
Laboratory tests are run on the wastewater and sludge at various stages throughout the process.  Our on-site laboratory runs CBOD, TSS, pH, D.O., phosphorus, ammonia, and alkalinity tests.  A commercial laboratory performs additional tests including nutrients and E. coli.

Are products labeled “disposable” safe to flush down the toilet?
No, these products do not dissolve and should not be flushed.  Dispose of these items in the trash.

What items can be flushed down the toilet?
Toilet paper and human waste.

What items should NOT be flushed down the toilet?
Baby wipes, paper towels, diapers, rags, towels, cotton swabs, feminine hygiene products, syringes, candy or food wrappers, cleaning sponges, any plastic item, cat litter, hair, underwear, latex gloves, disposable brushes or mops, disinfecting and cleaning wipes, toilet seat covers, dental floss, pharmaceutical products, etc.
For more information, click on the attachments at the bottom of the page called "No Wipes in the Pipes" and "It's Not a Trashcan".

Where should pharmaceutical products be disposed of?
On April 22, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration is having a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day where you can take any expired or unwanted medications for safe and proper disposal.  Click here for more information.
The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office is participating in this event and they also allow you to take your medications there any day of the year for disposal.

What is "point source" pollution?
Point source pollution originates from a specific locale, such as a factory discharge pipe. Point source pollution is typically easy to locate and control.

What is "nonpoint" source pollution?
Nonpoint source pollution comes from various land use practices, air pollutants, and sewer overflows -- plus daily human activity. It is harder to control nonpoint sources of pollution. An example includes excess farm and lawn nutrients moving throughout the soil and into the groundwater, or the pollutants enter local waters directly through runoff during heavy rains, causing dangerous algal blooms.

What is done with the organic waste collected from wastewater?
HRRSA treats the organic waste to create biosolids which is land applied to farmer’s fields.

What are biosolids and biosolids reuse?
Biosolids are a safe and beneficial resource composed of essential plant nutrient and organic matter that is recovered from the treatment of domestic sewage in a wastewater treatment facility.  Biosolids can be reused and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and to stimulate plant growth.  Farmers and gardeners have been reusing biosolids for ages.  Biosolids are also used to fertilize gardens and parks and to reclaim mining sites.  They are carefully monitored and must be used in accordance with regulatory requirements.

Are biosolids safe?
The National Academy of Sciences has reviewed current practices, public health concerns and regulatory standards, and has concluded that "the use of these materials in the production of crops for human consumption when practiced in accordance with existing federal guidelines and regulations, presents negligible risk to the consumer, to crop production and to the environment."

What is the difference between Class A and Class B biosolids?  Which type does HRRSA produce?
Class A biosolids contain minute levels of pathogens.  To achieve Class A certification, biosolids must undergo heating, composting, digestion, or increased pH that reduces pathogens to below detectable levels.  Once this happens, Class A biosolids can be applied to land without any pathogen-related restrictions at the site.  They can also be bagged and marketed to the public for application to lawns and gardens and used to grow crops that are consumed by humans.

Class B biosolids have less stringent standards for treatment and contain small but compliant amounts of bacteria.  The requirements for Class B biosolids ensure that pathogens in biosolids have been reduced to levels that protect public health and the environment.  They also include certain restrictions for crop harvesting, grazing animals, and public contact for all forms of Class B biosolids.  Just like Class A biosolids, they must undergo heating, composting, digestion, or increased pH processes before leaving the plant.  Class B biosolids can be used to grow crops that are only used for animal consumption.

HRRSA produces both Class B biosolids and EQ Class A biosolids that have been dried in our biosolids dryer.

Do biosolids smell?
Biosolids may have their own distinctive odor depending on the type of treatment it has been through. Some biosolids may have only a slight musty, ammonia odor. Others have a stronger odor that may be offensive to some people. Much of the odor is caused by compounds containing sulfur and ammonia, both of which are plant nutrients.

What percentage of biosolids are recycled and how many farmers use biosolids?
Nationwide, about 50% of all biosolids are being recycled to land.  These biosolids are used on less than 1% of the nation’s agricultural land.

Where does the North River Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) discharge its treated wastewater?
The North River WWTF discharges into the North River, which is a tributary of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and is one of many rivers and streams in Virginia that flow into the Chesapeake Bay.

Which states' rivers and streams flow into the Chesapeake Bay?
Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York -- and the District of Columbia.

What is the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)?
A historic and comprehensive "pollution diet" with rigorous accountability measures to initiate sweeping actions to restore clean water in the Chesapeake Bay and the region's streams, creeks and rivers.  This is mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

What is the Chesapeake Bay's land-to-water ratio?
The ratio is 14:1 which is the largest of any coastal water body in the world.  This is the main reason why land use has such a significant impact on the Bay's health.

How is the Chesapeake Bay impacted?
In recent years, the health of the Bay has been impaired by excessive nutrients from wastewater treatment plants, urban and suburban runoff, and agriculture.

Why is nutrient pollution such a serious problem?
It causes algae blooms that consume oxygen, lowering dissolved oxygen levels so severely that fish and shellfish die or fail to thrive. Algae blooms can also block sunlight to underwater grasses, creating "dead zones" in the Bay.

Where can I find more information about the Chesapeake Bay TMDL?
Visit the EPA's website to find additional information here.

What causes sewage backups?
An overflow in a sewer line generally results from a blockage in the line, causing the sewer to back up into nearby pipes and drains.  Blockages can occur in the main sewer lines outside your home, as well as within your home or office plumbing system.  
How can a sewage backup affect me?
If a backup occurs, the sewage will normally overflow out of the lowest possible opening, which is usually a manhole.  However, in some homes, especially those with basements or where the lowest level has the same elevation as the sewer lines, the overflowing sewage may exit lower drains and toilets.

What can I do to prevent sewer backups?
Never dump fats, oils or grease down your drains.  Never flush wipes, toys, shirts, diapers, napkins, or any other objects besides human waste and toilet paper.