As DC Water's assistant general manager of wastewater treatment, Walter Bailey played a key role in the public utility's decision to implement an innovative system to create a better class of biosolids at the Blue Plains advanced wastewater treatment facility.

At the heart of the $400-million project is a thermal hydrolysis Cambi system that uses high temperatures and pressures to make biomass more easily digestible.


Thermal hydrolysis, commonplace in Europe, particularly in Norway and the U.K., had never been implemented at the scale envisioned at Blue Plains in the U.S., Bailey says.


During the 1990s and the early 2000s, he led a team of engineers and consultants on several trips to Europe to see firsthand how the system worked. Bailey also guided research at DC Water's laboratories, as well as at Virginia Tech and Bucknell University, to test whether the system would work at Blue Plains. "We finally concluded, based upon experience in Europe and lab tests that we did over a couple of years, that it would be a good project for us," Bailey says.

Now at the start-up phase, the system "is working just as well as we thought it would. We're very pleased with the performance so far," he says.

People who work with Bailey note that he is not just knowledgeable but also effective at building consensus. Perry Schaefer, vice president of Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Brown and Caldwell, which is the program manager for biosolids for DC Water, says, "Walt is very good at bringing all the forces together and all the pieces and people together and getting issues resolved and bringing closure."

DC Water CEO and General Manager George Hawkins adds, "Walt's extraordinary depth of knowledge, combining experience with this constant thirst for new knowledge about what's cutting-edge, makes him really remarkable. He's also one of the nicest people—to meet him, you'd never know he's one of the world experts in this field."