Durham sits on a ridge line that generally runs along Pettigrew Street and the railroad track. Ridge lines and topography determine drainage areas. Due to this factor, we have two water reclamation facilities (WRFs) serving the city and a significant portion of Durham County.
The North Durham Water Reclamation Facility is on East Club Boulevard. It has a permitted capacity of 20 million gallons a day (MGD) and discharges into Ellerbe Creek in the Neuse basin. The South Durham Water Reclamation Facility (pictured above) is on Farrington Road near Highway 54. It has a permitted capacity of 20 MGD and discharges into the upper arm of New Hope Creek in the Cape Fear basin. Although the facilities have a combined capacity of 40 MGD, they are currently running at about 50% of capacity.
Durham County owns and operates a separate facility which serves the Research Triangle Park and adjacent areas.
- Wastewater Facilities
- Reclaimed Water
- About Biosolids
- Sewer System
- Sewer Maintenance
- Contact Water & Sewer
Each facility operates under a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit issue by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which limits the amounts of different substances, including nutrients such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus, which are allowed in the discharge. Each WRF is staffed 24/7 to ensure that processes are monitored around the clock.
The city’s centralized state-certified Water/Wastewater Laboratory is located at the South Durham WRF. In addition to conducting analyses for the water reclamation and treatment facilities, Lab staff also analyzes samples for the Industrial Pretreatment and Storm Water Services programs. For more detailed information about the city’s permit compliance history, view the Annual Sewer System Report.
Reclaimed water is wastewater that has undergone a series of physical, biological, chemical processes to remove pollutants and solids to make it safe for irrigation, manufacturing, industrial cooling, street washing, dust control at construction sites, and similar uses. This is a good way to reduce the amount of drinking water going into agricultural or industrial applications. For more information, see our list of Frequently Asked Questions about Reclaimed Water.
The City of Durham makes reclaimed water available at no charge, under conditions of our state permit, to our list of certified users who take at least 250 gallons directly from the North Durham Water Reclamation Facility. While clean and safe for many uses, the law requires certain precautions for human contact. Only customers who have completed the required training may obtain permits. If you are interested, see the training schedule below. You may register by submitting a completed registration form, or an online form (when available).
Training Schedule & Registration
Please Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Reclaimed Water classes have been temporarily suspended.
Contact Water Reclamation
Address: North Durham Water Reclamation Facility, 1900 E Club Boulevard, Durham, NC 27704
Monday - Friday (8 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
Staff: John Dodson, Superintendent, Email
Another program managed by the Water Reclamation Facility staff is the beneficial use and disposal of wastewater residuals, or biosolids. Through the city’s approved land application program, biosolids are applied to the fields of non-food crops grown by local farmers as a nutrient-rich soil amendment.
Recent Nutrient Management Strategy Rules adopted by the state will have far reaching implications for the city’s two Water Reclamation Facilities. While in compliance with current nutrient limits, both will undergo a number of process improvements and construction projects to enable them to meet stringent future limits in the next several years.
Each year, the City of Durham prepares a report outlining our wastewater treatment processes, compliance with permit conditions, and maintenance activities in the collection system. Also included is a list of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) that have occurred during the most recent fiscal year. Due to the maintenance activities and the efforts of the Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) program, we have reduced both the number of spills and the volumes of spills over the last several years.
The Water and Sewer Maintenance Division has more than 100 full time employees dedicated to providing routine and emergency maintenance to the city’s water distribution and wastewater collection systems. Typical tasks include the inspection, cleaning and repairing of water and sewer main trunk lines. The division also installs and repairs water and sewer service connections and operates and maintains fire hydrants and water valves.
Wastewater leaving all residential and non-residential establishments in the City’s service area is collected in the approximately 1,100 miles of sewer lines and delivered to wastewater treatment facilities for processing before it’s discharged back into the environment.
One important Water and Sewer Maintenance Division mission is the cleaning program required by the state. The City’s Collections System Permit, issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources/Division of Water Quality, mandates the implementation of a program to clean at least 10% of the City’s sewer lines annually. This is an integral part of maintaining the sewer infrastructure to reduce or mitigate the occurrence of sewer system overflows.
Cleaning prevents major blockages caused by foreign objects, solidified calcite, root growth, fats, oils and grease (FOG) and various other forms of debris. Many municipalities, including the City of Durham, use high-pressure water pumps and hoses combined with various flushing head attachments to clean debris.This allows technicians to "pressure wash" the walls as the hose is pulled through the pipe. The water pulls the suspended debris back to the manhole where it can be vacuumed or removed by hand.
Because this process can cause the household toilet to splash water onto the surrounding walls and floor in the bathroom, customers are encouraged to close all toilet lids routinely. A further action would be to cover the toilet bowl with an old towel and then place the toilet seat and lid down to hold the towel in place. City staff uses notification procedures for routine system cleaning so that customers can prepare for and potentially minimize issues caused by the high pressure flushing process. Customers may call Water and Sewer Maintenance at 919-560-4344 for further information and updates.
For information about the collection system and cleaning activities, view the Annual Sewer System Report and information on Sewer Spills and Overflows.