Members of the Albemarle County Service Authority have expressed concern about spending additional money to contain odor that emanates from the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“We shouldn’t entertain a bigger project on odor control,” said Richard Carter, who represents the Jack Jouett District on the ACSA Board of Directors.
A majority of members also went on record Thursday stating that $3.5 million budgeted by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir remain dedicated to that purpose or a similar one.
In 2012, the RWSA put out a request for proposals for firms to dredge the reservoir and specifically sought a public-private partnership. The $3.5 million was to be used as an incentive for private firms who would make money selling the dredged material.
The only firm deemed by the RWSA to have submitted a qualified bid, the Orion Marine Group, told the RWSA in August that it would not proceed.
“They did their due diligence and spent a lot of time and effort and arrived at a conclusion that they could not make it work for anywhere near $3.5 million,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the ACSA.
Blue Ridge Sand, a firm whose bid was deemed by the RWSA to not be qualified, has expressed interest in submitting their proposal once more.
The RWSA was to have taken the matter up last month, but two of the city’s representatives on that body were not present. The topic will instead come up at the RWSA’s next meeting on Oct 30.
O’Connell said the RWSA is also set to decide on whether to proceed with $2 million in improvements that would constitute the second round of a five phase odor control plan.
However, he told the ACSA that City Council has directed its representatives to increase the level of improvements that would be built at this time.
“There are concerns from city neighborhoods… that would like to see a big project that’s going to end odors once and for all and to do that it’s going to be a lot of money,” O’Connell said.
In 2007, the firm Hazen & Sawyer estimated it would take $33 million in improvements to achieve a 99.9 percent reduction in odor.
City Councilor Dave Norris suggested in mid-September that the money for dredging be reallocated to pay for odor control.
ACSA members are not receptive to that idea.
“I see no connection between the funding in the water plan agreement and the odor control issue,” said Bill Kittrell, who represents the White Hall district.
Former ACSA member John Martin was part of a task force that reviewed stewardship proposals for the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir during 2008-2009.
“One thing that struck every one of us was [the] observation that the reservoir is neither a lake nor a river,” Martin said. “It’s a political swamp. The task force recommended dredging and now there are tendrils coming out of that political swamp that are tugging on that $3.5 million to take it away from stewardship of the reservoir.”
Dave Thomas, who represents the Rivanna District on the ACSA, said he would support reallocating the money to another form of watershed protection, but not for odor control.
“If we’re talking about an over $30 million odor control problem, how many people actually live within three quarters of a mile?” Thomas said. “I think we’re talking about spending six figures per person on an odor control problem and I’ll go on record saying that’s ridiculous.”
Woolen Mills resident Karl Ackerman has been campaigning for the RWSA to address the odor issue for years and recently told City Council that the problem is getting much worse.
“The ACSA should talk to the wastewater operations manager and ask him if the plant has an odor control problem,” Ackerman said.
Ackerman said both the city and county are becoming more dense, which means more people will be living within what he calls the ‘odor footprint’ of the plant.
“I suspect the plant impacts a huge number of poor people in the city and that attitude is simple callousness,” Ackerman added.
The ACSA and the city also remain divided about how to pay to move the Rivanna Pump Station from its current location in the city’s Riverview Park to the Moores Creek facility. The county had supported upgrading the pump station in place because the cost estimate was $13 million cheaper, but the city favored a more expensive option that relocates the station.
O’Connell had no update on the cost-allocation negotiations but the true cost of the project will be known after bids for the project are opened on Nov. 6.