Industry officials credit Ted Henifin, general manager of the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, with conceptualizing an innovative initiative that addresses multiple issues under one program: meeting ever-toughening water-quality requirements, ensuring sufficient supplies of drinking water, and slowing and potentially even reversing dramatic land subsidence due to sea-level rise and groundwater over-pumping.

Called the Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow (SWIFT), the $1-billion program will purify to drinking-water quality, already highly treated water at seven of HRSD’s nine wastewater treatment plants. Then, the purified water will be treated to match existing groundwater chemistry and pumped into the Potomac Aquifer, the primary source of groundwater for eastern Virginia. While similar projects have been adopted in California, most notably the Orange Country Groundwater Replenishment program, SWIFT is one of the first to take a similar approach to the East Coast’s geography and geological challenges, including subsidence.

Ted HenifinTed Henifin
Virginia Beach, Va.
ENR 7/10/17 p. 6-7
Unusual problems drive unusual water solutions in one of the fastest-sinking areas of the nation.

“Ted will say we all worked together on it, but it is 100% his idea,” says Bruce Husselbee, HRSD’s director of engineering. Henifin “can connect things that the average person wouldn’t think of” to come up with innovative solutions, he adds.

By February, HRSD expects to reach substantial completion of a $25-million demonstration facility at the Nansemond wastewater treatment plant. Once the demonstration facility comes on line in April, HRSD will begin the process of hiring a consultant to help plan the full-scale project.

Adam Krantz, CEO of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, says the SWIFT program is “extraordinarily innovative. It’s what we call a ‘utility of the future’-style project.” Krantz notes that, 20 years ago, public utility officials tended to be more reluctant to be early adopters on trends. “I think that, more and more, leaders like Ted are going beyond the requirements of the [Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act] and pushing the industry in a post-20th-century direction.”

Paul Calamita, an environmental attorney with Aqualaw, adds that Henifin is the “Jeff Bezos of the water industry.” Describing Henifin as a “creative and affable genius,” he says his “relentless challenge to conventional thinking and approaches has catapulted him as a leading player nationally as to the benefits public utilities can deliver.” 

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