The following sections provide information concerning three WtE facilities located in Virginia and two
additional facilities located in neighboring Maryland. Two companies own and/or operate most WtE
facilities in the region as well as nationally: Covanta and Waste Innovations/Wheelabrator
Covanta Fairfax I-95 Energy/Resource Recovery Facility (E/RRF) is located at Fairfax County’s I-95
Solid Waste Management Complex at 9898 Furnace Road in Lorton, VA. The E/RRF has been in
operation since 1990. This facility serves approximately 900,000 customers in Fairfax County and
elsewhere in the Washington D.C. suburbs. The E/RRF is operated by Covanta, which has been in
operation since 1980.
The I-95 E/RRF Operates similarly to a conventional power plant. MSW is fed into the plant,
incinerated, and the heat is used to generate steam to turn turbines used to produce electricity. The
generators at I-95 E/RRF generate over 93 MW of electricity 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and
the annual electrical output of the facility is equivalent to approximately 2 million barrels of crude oil.
For each ton of feedstock MSW that is incinerated, the plant is capable of generating approximately
670 kW of electrical output, which is equivalent to roughly what is needed to power 67,000 homes
Unlike traditional fossil fuel-powered electrical generation plants, The I-95 E/RRF allows for the
recovery and recycling of metals from the waste stream. After waste is incinerated, what remains of
inflammable materials is removed, and much of it is recycled. Each year, 37,000 tons of metal are
recycled, enough to build 27,000 cars. The I-95 E/RRF also uses recycled water from the Normal M.
Cole Jr. Pollution Control Plant. Approximately 560 million gallons of reclaimed water are used as a
substitute for potable water in the facility’s cooling towers.
The I-95 E/RRF facility offers significant environmental benefits to Fairfax County including reducing
emissions associated with transporting waste to alternative MSW disposal facilities located in central
and southern Virginia. The E/RRF facility eliminated the need for development of additional legacy
waste disposal facilities such as landfills in the Fairfax area and reduces the County’s greenhouse
gas emissions from surface fugitives like methane.
Fires are a prevalent risk in all facilities accepting, aggregating and storing waste, including WtE
facilities. On February 2, 2017, firefighters responded to a major fire at the I-95 E/RRF facility. The
fire started on the facility tipping floor and spread to the waste pit. At the time, the waste pit was
close to its capacity, providing ample fuel for the fire. The fire burned for several days until
emergency responders were able to completely suppress the fire. No one was injured in the fire.
Following the incident, all critical facility systems were found to still be intact, but the building was
found to have sustained damage. Subsequent repairs required the facility to temporarily close for 9
months. The facility is now fully repaired and active and continues to serve the greater Fairfax area.
Covanta Alexandria/Arlington Waste-to-Energy Facility (Alexandria WtE) is located at 5301
Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria, VA. Alexandria WtE was developed jointly by the City of Alexandria
and the City of Arlington. Alexandria WtE commenced operations in February 1988 and, like Covanta
Fairfax, is operated by Covanta. A Facility Monitoring Group (FMG) facilitated by the representing
local governments was established in January 2013 to act as a single point of contact for Covanta.
Alexandria WtE operates similarly to the Covanta I-95 E/RRF. Incoming waste is fed into the plant,
incinerated, and the heat is used to generate steam to turn the turbines. Alexandria WtE processes
more than 350,000 tons of feedstock waste per year, and Covanta claims a reduction of greenhouse
gas emissions by 331,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year as compared to landfilling. The
plant produces 22 MW of electrical power 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, the annual equivalent
of roughly what is required to power 15,000 homes. The plant recovers 11,200 tons of recyclable
metals annually, the equivalent of 9,000 cars.
Covanta completed a multi-year facility modification in 2022. Covanta voluntarily installed a
proprietary NOx reduction technology (LN), which reportedly reduced NOx emissions by nearly 50%.
The Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility (Montgomery RRF) is located at 21204
Martinsburg Road in Dickerson, MD. The Montgomery RRF was opened in 1995, and is owned by
Montgomery County but operated by Covanta.
Montgomery RRF processes approximately 600,000 tons of waste per year, generating 60 MW of
electricity 24 hours per day, 7 days a year. This electricity is sufficient to power up to 27,000 homes
per year. The facility recovers 13,500 tons of recyclable metal waste per year and claims to reduce
carbon dioxide emissions by 528,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year as compared to
landfilling. According to Covanta, this facility operates at up to 98% below federal emissions
standards for Large Municipal Solid Waste Combustors regulated by 40 CFR 60 Subpart Cb, a
designation that includes all facilities mentioned in this document.
On December 8th, 2016, a significant fire was reported on the Montgomery RRF tipping floor.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service were called to the facility and remained at the facility
for 10 days to address the fire and direct Covanta throughout the fire suppression efforts. Up to that
point, there were several small fires on the facility tipping floor and in the trash pit. The exact cause
of the fire is unknown, but it is likely that the fire occurred when waste stored on the tipping floor
either self-ignited or reacted with a proximate material within the waste mass. Covanta’s consultants
determined that the duration and severity of the fire were related to the high waste inventory, a lack
of rotating the waste within the waste pit, and the age and condition of the stored waste.
The Wheelabrator Portsmouth WtE facility is located at 3809 Elm Avenue in Portsmouth, VA and
serves several southeast Virginia localities including Portsmouth, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia
Beach, Franklin, Suffolk, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County. The facility was originally
opened in 1988, and was acquired by Wheelabrator in 2010.
Portsmouth WtE can process up to 2,370 tons of post-recycled waste from private homes and
businesses per day. A total of 615,396 tons of waste were processed through the facility in 2021.
The facility can generate up to 60 MW of electricity, supplying power equivalent to what is required
for 31,760 homes. Also in 2021, Portsmouth WtE recovered 10,014 tons of recyclable metals for
The facility currently supplies steam to the Norfolk Navy Shipyards, one of the oldest shipyards in the
country and a major hub for new ships and ships in need of repair. This may soon change, as the
Navy broke ground in 2021 for a new on-site natural gas-powered plant which is scheduled to be
completed in 2023. The gas project would generate a significant percentage of the electricity used at
the shipyard, as well as steam. At present, the Navy is still contractually obligated to purchase steam
from Portsmouth WtE until 2024. The area’s solid waste management authority, the Southeastern
Public Service Authority (SPSA), is also obligated to transport the regional MSW it manages to the
Facility for disposal until at least 2027. However, given the prominence of the Navy as a stakeholder
for the project and the presence of alternative solid waste disposal facilities in the region, the future
of the facility is in question.
The Wheelabrator Baltimore WtE facility is located at 1801 Annapolis Road in Baltimore, MD. This
facility services the Baltimore metropolitan area and is referred to as the Baltimore Refuse Energy
Systems Company (BRESCO) incinerator. The facility began operations in 1985.
Baltimore WtE can process up to 2,250 tons of waste per day. A total of 693,146 tons of waste were
processed at the facility in 2021, generating enough electricity to power about 40,292 homes. In
2021, the facility also recovered 11,762 tons of recyclable metals. The facility has an energy
generation capacity of 64.5 MW of electricity.
Baltimore WtE, like the Portsmouth WtE facility, generates steam as an output product. Baltimore
WtE provides steam to the City of Baltimore’s downtown heating loop. The heating loop serves
around 255 businesses including M&T Bank Stadium.
Wheelabrator has begun to implement modifications to the existing facility in 2022 to reduce the
concentrations of select emissions constituents. Each of the three boiler units are slated to be
retrofitted over the next two years with new particulate-arresting fabric filters.