The upcoming Chesapeake Bay project will be based in Norfolk, Virginia, on the Elizabeth River.

Led by oceanographers from the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware, this project will add a small amount of the mineral magnesium hydroxide to the outfall at the VIP water treatment plant operated by local utility Hampton Roads Sanitary District (HRSD). The treated water will be released into the river through the existing diffuser.

This project’s primary goal is to answer scientific questions about the efficacy, safety, and potential of ocean alkalinity enhancement in Chesapeake Bay.

For more information on how the alkalinity enhancement process works, please see our science pages. To see information on the project’s current status, recent updates, or available data, see our project update page.

What is the Project?

Scientists Jeremy Testa and Ming Li of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and Wei-Jun Cai of the University of Delaware are leading a multi-year scientific project studying the effect of wastewater Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement (OAE) on carbon dioxide removal and ocean acidification mitigation in Chesapeake Bay. Planetary is contributing its experience with alkalinity enhancement, including the expertise of Dr. Yuanyuan Xu.

Partnering with Hampton Roads Sanitation District at the VIP wastewater treatment facility, the study plans to neutralise the acidic CO2 present in the wastewater by using small amounts of magnesium hydroxide. The treated water will then be released into the Elizabeth River. Both Planetary’s scientists and members of the scientific team will monitor the water upstream and downstream of the addition point, as well as in the larger river. 

A schedule for the project, and any recent updates relating to it, can be viewed here.

Why Here?

As an estuary, the Chesapeake Bay project site presents a new area of study for ocean alkalinity enhancement. Estuaries must be investigated independently from open ocean environments to determine if OAE is appropriate in these unique ecosystems.

Chesapeake Bay in particular is close to the University of Maryland and University of Delaware, two recognized leaders in oceanographic science which have been able to contribute scientific expertise and baseline data for this study.

The Elizabeth River also has a history of successful environmental restoration: what was once one of the most polluted rivers in the state now hosts otters and oysters, and its health is continuing to improve. Local organizations and governmental groups are committed to investigating new ways to support recovering marine ecosystems, and OAE has the potential to help them.

For recent developments, please visit our project updates page or contact us with questions.

What are the Intended Benefits of the Project?

Scientific Advancement

This research will help clarify questions around the environmental and biological impacts of alkaline materials in the Elizabeth River, and around the costs and efficacy of our OAE approach. It will help identify natural factors that may affect carbon removal, such as the phase of the tide, the amount of algal growth in the water, and will help refine a model of the estuary-ocean system.

This will help determine whether the approach is a feasible pathway toward carbon removal and ocean acidification mitigation in Chesapeake Bay.

Refined Monitoring Protocol

Sensors deployed throughout the addition system and in the receiving waters will provide data on the dispersion of alkalinity and its interactions with the marine environment.

This information will be used to 

  • Calibrate ocean models 
  • Improve our MRV practices and calculations of carbon dioxide removal, and
  • Refine our ocean safety monitoring practices.

Who is Participating?

This project is being executed jointly by members of several public and private groups. Collaborating institutions include:

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), which has developed an international reputation in coastal science and contributed to the revitalization of Chesapeake Bay. Doctors Jeremy Testa and Ming Li, both of the UMCES, serve as this project’s Principal Investigator and lead on hydrodynamic-biogeochemical models.

The University of Delaware School of Marine Science and Policy (SMSP), which is committed to advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal and ocean environments. The school’s Dr. Wei-Jun Cai will lead this project’s observational program.

Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) is the outfall partner on this project. They have made their infrastructure available for use and are supporting this research as part of their investigation of new ways to reduce the environmental impact of wastewater treatment. Dr. Charles Bott is HRSD’s chief operator.

Planetary is providing the alkalinity and executing the addition, as well as providing support around the permitting process. and monitoring efforts. Planetary’s Dr. Yuanyuan Xu will assist with interpreting and validating data and integrating Planetary’s MRV approach within the wastewater facility.

Opportunities for Getting Involved

We encourage you to stay involved and in touch. If there is a part of this project that you would like to hear more about, please contact us at