DC Water leverages technology first in North America to generate clean, renewable energy from wastewater

PC Construction & CDM Joint Venture Constructed World’s Largest Thermal Hydrolysis Facility

Washington, D.C. — Today DC Water unveiled its $470 million waste-to-energy project that is producing a net 10 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the wastewater treatment process, providing clean, renewable energy to power about one-third of the Blue Plains plant’s energy needs.

The facilities include a dewatering building, 32 thermal hydrolysis vessels, four concrete 80-foot high anaerobic digesters that hold 3.8 million gallons of solids each and three turbines the size of jet engines.

The project, which broke ground in 2011, was only viable through the use of innovative technology never before used in North America. DC Water not only brought the CAMBI® thermal hydrolysis process to the continent, in addition Blue Plains is now the largest thermal hydrolysis installation in the world. Thermal hydrolysis uses high heat and pressure to “pressure cook” the solids left over at the end of the wastewater treatment process. This weakens the solids’ cell walls and the structure between cells to make the energy easily accessible to the organisms in the next stage of the process—anaerobic digestion. The methane these organisms produce is captured and fed to three large turbines to produce electricity. Steam is also captured and directed back into the process.

Finally, the solids at the end of the process are a cleaner Class A biosolids product that DC Water uses as a compost-like material. Biosolids products are currently being used around the District for urban gardens, and green infrastructure projects. DC Water is also working to bring a compost-like product to market.    

DC Water CEO and General Manager George S. Hawkins, said “This projects embodies a shift from treating used water as waste to leveraging it as a resource. We are proud to be the first to bring this innovation to North America for the benefit of our ratepayers, the industry and the environment.”

DC Water selected the PC/CDM Joint Venture, which brings together the industry-leading expertise in water treatment facility design and construction of PC Construction and CDM Smith, to utilize the design-build delivery method to build the Cambi thermal hydrolysis process at the Blue Plains facility.

“This massive design-build project boasts significant environmental benefits, including creating 10 MW of renewable electric energy, capturing steam heat to efficiently run the anaerobic digesters, and producing cleaner Class A biosolids that can be used as compost rather than being hauled away,” said Mike Angeli, construction executive at PC Construction and the construction project director for the PC/CDM Joint Venture. “The PC/CDM Joint Venture team is proud to work with DC Water to introduce innovative thermal hydrolysis technology to North America.”

For more information on the project, please visit:

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About PC Construction
PC Construction offers general contracting, construction management and design-build services to private companies and public entities of all sizes. The company manages projects along the East Coast and in the southeastern United States from its headquarters in Vermont and a network of locations in Florida, Georgia, Maine, New York and North Carolina. A construction industry leader for 57 years, PC Construction (formerly Pizzagalli Construction) is guided to success by its more than 900 dedicated employee-owners. Find out more about PC Construction at and follow us on Twitter at @_PCConstruction.

About CDM Smith
CDM Smith provides lasting and integrated solutions in water, environment, transportation, energy and facilities to public and private clients worldwide. As a full-service engineering and construction firm, we deliver exceptional client service, quality results and enduring value across the entire project life cycle. Visit us at