When it rains, the multimillion-dollar recycling system collects, filters, and treats stormwater from the 425-acre export coal facility. The water is reused to suppress dust and clean equipment at Pier 6, where oceangoing colliers are loaded with metallurgical and steam coal used to produce steel and electricity worldwide. In addition to enhancing the health of the river’s ecosystem by reducing stormwater runoff, the project conserves water and lowers NS’s water bill. Since the recycling system began operating in March 2013, the coal pier has reduced its use of municipal water by approximately 1.5 million gallons a month, annually saving about 18 million gallons.
The project began in 2000, when NS constructed stormwater retention ponds at the Lamberts Point facility. The latest upgrade, an approximately $5 million investment, added a 10,000-gallon holding tank, a “Hydroclone” filtration system to remove fine coal particles, and a carbon and ultraviolet light treatment system that neutralizes microorganisms and other potential pollutants. The water then is ready for use in the coal pier’s operating processes.
The railroad’s efforts have earned recognition from the Elizabeth River Project, a nonprofit conservation organization whose goal is to restore the river’s water quality. The ERP in January presented NS with a 2013 “Sustained Distinguished Performance” award for the stormwater project, the second consecutive year the railroad has achieved the award. The railroad is a “Model Level” partner in the ERP’s River Star Business program, the highest level for businesses.
“It really is an impressive project,” said Pamela Boatwright, the ERP’s deputy director administration and River Star program manager. “Through its efforts at Lamberts Point, Norfolk Southern has shown its commitment to environmental stewardship and is contributing to our long-term goal to make the Elizabeth River safe again for swimming and fishing.”
NS Vice President Real Estate and Corporate Sustainability Officer Blair Wimbush said the stormwater project demonstrates the railroad’s commitment to corporate responsibility. “Our investment supports a healthier environment while also benefitting the company’s bottom line, results that are good for the communities the railroad serves as well as employees and shareholders,” he said. “This is the kind of sustainability project that we love to do. It was voluntary, goes beyond governmental compliance, and has ecological and economical efficiencies. It reflects our underlying commitment to innovate, reduce our environmental footprint, and improve our economic well-being at the same time.”
“A lot of people think that big industry doesn’t care about the environment until somebody forces their hand, but that has not been my experience at Norfolk Southern,” said Director Piers and Facilities Ray Jones. A 33-year employee of the company, Jones helped oversee the stormwater system upgrade. “Norfolk Southern has done many other projects across our 22-state system that show we do care about the environment and are taking care of the land and waterways around us,” he said.
To learn more about NS’s sustainability efforts, visit www.nssustainability.com.