Ed Hayner Started Out Just Trying to Make a Living. He Ended Up With a Clean-Water Career and a Life of Service.

Hatfield award-winner Ed Hayner brings the same selfless attitude to his plant manager role as he does to volunteer work for the local food pantry.

Ed Hayner Started Out Just Trying to Make a Living. He Ended Up With a Clean-Water Career and a Life of Service.

Hayner (left) and Bruce Jett, assistant plant manager, do a spring check on the discharge pipes. They appreciate seeing fish and other wildlife near the discharges because it confirms they are putting out the best possible product for the environment.

Ed Hayner is committed to service.

He sees his role as plant manager at the Aquia Wastewater Treatment Plant in Virginia as providing a clean-water environment for his customers. In his spare time, he and his wife volunteer at a food pantry.

Hayner credits his 2018 William D. Hatfield Award from the Virginia Water Environment Association to his operations team. “I started out in this field as a way to make a living,” he says. “It has progressed to the point of giving something back to the community.”

Bruce Jett, assistant plant manager, observes, “Ed is dedicated to the plant, to the system and to the environment. He sets goals, and there are not very many we don’t attain.”

Hayner is from the Fredericksburg area, site of the Aquia plant, owned by Stafford County. After high school, he earned certification for maintenance and service of refrigeration and air conditioning systems and worked in the Springfield area, near Washington, D.C.

Wanting to get closer to home, he joined the wastewater treatment profession by signing on to the staff at Fredericksburg in 1986; then he spent a year at Prince William County and another year at the water plant in Hanover County.

“I started out as a trainee and then took the courses and did all the things I was supposed to do,” he says. “When Stafford County started up its Aquia facility in 1991, I joined the staff there.” He has been with the county for 29 years.


The Aquia plant (10 mgd design, 5.1 mgd average) treats wastewater from the northern part of Stafford County, about 40 miles south of the nation’s capital. Some 55 pump stations move the water to the plant, which serves about 60,000 residents. A small fraction of the flow comes from the western portion of Marine Corps Base Quantico.

In 2011, the plant was upgraded to a three-train enhanced nutrient removal system (Schreiber) to comply with the Chesapeake Bay watershed treatment guidelines. Influent flows through mechanical bar screens (Headworks International) and grit and grease removal chambers before passing to the enhanced nutrient removal process.

The Schreiber counter-current low-load system employs aerated and anoxic zones to achieve nitrification-denitrification, plus internal mixed liquor. The three separate trains provide redundancy to take one train down for service without exceeding permit limits.

“It’s a very consistent process compared to some I’ve had experience with,” Hayner says. “It’s very forgiving. With our high flows, we just need to keep our biomass at a certain level.”

Solids settle out in the secondary clarifiers, and chemicals are added to remove phosphorus to less than 0.18 mg/L.

The clarified water is polished in AquaDisk sand filters (Aqua-Aerobic Systems). A TrojanUV3000Plus UV system (TrojanUV) disinfects the effluent before discharge to Austin Run, which flows to the Aquia Creek and ultimately to the Potomac River.

Biosolids are aerobically digested and dewatered to an 18% solids cake on centrifuges (Alfa Laval and Andritz). The material (920 dry tons per year) is hauled to landfill by county staff. The plant runs on a Lord and Co. SCADA system. The plant staff uses a computerized maintenance management system (Dude Solutions).


The Chesapeake Bay effluent guidelines were enacted to alleviate pollution and algae buildup in the 4,400-square-mile estuary between Virginia and Maryland and require exceptional performance, especially on nutrients.

Hayner’s plant must meet seasonal ammonia limits of 2.1 mg/L from November to March and 1.0 mg/L from April to October. The plant’s numbers are better than that: The weekly effluent averages are 1.0 mg/L for TSS, 2.0 mg/L for CBOD, 0.50 mg/L for total nitrogen, 0.10 mg/L for total phosphorus, less than 1.0 mg/L for nitrates and nitrite, and 0.2 mg/L for ammonia.

Hayner attributes the results to the plant expansion and extra capacity and to commitment from the staff of 11 operators and two mechanics. “It’s not just me,” he says. “It’s the staff. Our mentality is we work together as a team to put out good effluent.”

Team members in addition to Jett are David Danner, Travis Farmer, Thomas Louden and Brad Horner, senior operators; Robert Fitzgerald, Ronald Holbrook, Howard Carter and Mark Jackson, plant operators; Joseph Richardson and Justin Christman, solids handling operators; Ron Bates, head mechanic; Chad Perry, mechanic; and Jon Brindle, pretreatment coordinator.

Hayner makes a practice of communicating with the staff each day; he holds a staff meeting each month to go over items that need attention. An example is the utility’s FOG program, which the staff developed under Brindle’s leadership. Inflow and infiltration issues have led to the lining of more than 9 miles of sewer pipe. “We figure things out,” Hayner says.

Jett endorses Hayner’s approach. “I’ve known Ed for 20 years,” Jett says. “He steps up to the plate. As a team, he inspires us to do the best we can to make sure our plant meets and exceeds the state guidelines.”

Hayner returns the compliment: “Bruce is very valuable. He has an in-depth knowledge of the treatment process. Together, we are learning every day how to do things better. You’re never too old to learn.”


Since he joined the wastewater treatment profession, Hayner has witnessed significant changes.

“We’ve gone from making water clean to making it very clean,” he says. “Industry standards used to be 30-30. Now we’ve dropped down to 5 or 6. We have fish in our effluent; herring and shad swim up our effluent stream. We have fish eggs in the effluent trough. We didn’t see that 30 years ago.”

His biggest challenge is succession planning — or as he puts it, “maintaining service after us old guys leave.” The staff conducts tours regularly, and one of the goals is to interest young people to join the profession or to assume future leadership positions that can provide adequate funding so that treatment plants can provide the quality of water expected of them.

“We have some pretty bright people working for us, and they should be able to carry on the torch,” Hayner says. “We need to make sure we are leaving things in good hands.”

His personal objective as he nears retirement? “Keep going the best I can and provide the replacement equipment as needed. It’s not about Ed. It’s about the staff and the plant I leave.” 


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