In 2018, Covanta’s Fairfax County Resource Recovery Facility in Lorton, Virginia, resumed operations with enhanced safety infrastructure and protocols after being closed for nearly a year following a 2017 fire that damaged its waste storage area.

Covanta Fairfax during reconstruction

Although the investigation into the cause of the fire was inconclusive, the proliferation of lithium-ion batteries remains a potential cause. Covanta wasted no time in conducting a thorough facility review and installing upgraded systems and equipment to improve safety and reduce the likelihood and potential impacts of fires in the future.

Examples of the infrastructure improvements we implemented include installing infrared/thermal imaging cameras, motor-operated roof hatches, a noncombustible roof system and upgraded sprinkler systems at the facility. We also improved notification protocols and automatic dispatch for emergency response. If sensors detect a fire, water cannons will immediately deploy and an emergency call will be placed. We have also implemented new operational changes, such as no longer allowing waste to remain on the tipping floor overnight and creating wider barriers between where garbage trucks dump waste and where it is stored before processing.

After our investment in these changes and upgrades, the Fairfax facility is now poised to be safer than ever and is serving as a model for other Covanta properties. Although any renovations are always done according to a facility’s own individual risk profile, our successes in enhancing safety at the Fairfax facility demonstrate how we are working to continuously improve safety and consistently incorporate fire prevention considerations across our operations.