Charlottesville and Albemarle County officials have not yet agreed on how to split the costs of new and existing Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority projects, including a $40 million project to move the Rivanna Pump Station out of the city’s Woolen Mills neighborhood.
“The discussion is about who pays how much between the city and Albemarle County Service Authority customers,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the ACSA.
A divided RWSA Board of Directors voted 4-3 in December 2011 to relocate the station downstream to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant rather than build a new station in its same location.
All three of Albemarle’s board members voted against the move because they said they could not justify the additional expense to county taxpayers. An option to replacing the station at its location next to Riverview Park had a $27 million cost estimate.
The topic came up at Thursday’s ACSA Board meeting when a Monticello High School senior asked the board for an update on the cost-share agreement.
“We can’t give you specifics on it because we’re still having closed negotiations [with the city],” said Liz Palmer, vice chair of the ACSA. “I apologize we can’t give you any specifics.”
Palmer said it was likely that a draft cost-share agreement would not be ready to be discussed publicly until mid-February.
O’Connell said an agreement must be in place by the time the RWSA Board authorizes the project for construction , which may occur in September 2013.
O’Connell said uncertainties over cost-share for sewer projects are not limited to the Rivanna Pump Station.
“It’s not just the Rivanna Pump Station,” O’Connell said. “Every wastewater project that has gone on at [the RWSA] does not have a cost allocation agreement.”
These projects range from the completed Meadowcreek Interceptor to the proposed upgrade of the Schenks Branch sewer main. The cost-share to design and build the $48.7 million upgrade of the Moores Creek treatment facility has also not been fully allocated, according to the documents provided by the RWSA.
City officials had little comment on the ongoing negotiations.
“There is hope that a formula could be agreed to that would be used with other projects but that is not a guarantee at this point,” said City Manager Maurice Jones.
Thomas L. Frederick, the executive director of the RWSA, said there is no set date when a cost-share allocation has to be finalized, but he would prefer to see an agreement happen sooner rather than later.
“In the absence of a cost share agreement we have a wholesale rate to both the city and county sufficient to fund the progress of the projects,” Frederick said. “But at such time the two parties agree on a final share, the further the projects are along the road to completion. More accounting work [will be] required of us to reconcile what the two
parties have previously paid compared to how they now agree to share.”
However, O’Connell said another issue will be further odor control measures at the Moores Creek treatment plant, which was upgraded to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous that is released into the Rivanna River.
“The Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant [upgrade] had built-in some odor control measures,” O’Connell said. “Albemarle County paid specifically to have all the septic system haulers have a new facility to where it would be a closed system.”
However, O’Connell said there are still odor issues despite the upgrade being complete.
The RWSA will consider further improvements in 2013.
“It’s the big clarifiers that are open to the air that churn the sewage up,” O’Connell said. “At this point I don’t know how much all of that is going to cost … but I suspect it will be a significant number.”
The RWSA Board of Directors will be presented with a draft capital improvement plan at its meeting in January.
The ACSA is also addressing unexpected odor issues at its new North Fork Regional Pump Station, which serves northern Albemarle.
ACSA Chief Engineer Pete Gorham the problems began soon after the plant went into operation earlier this year.
“We put the pump station into operation under a test mode to make sure the pumps were operating,” Gorham said. “There were some odor complaints that made it to maintenance and they went out and some flushed some lines.”
The facility was built to replace the aging Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant and is being paid for through a special rate district. The station was built to handle a much higher rate of sewage of flows.
Gorham said the ACSA worked with homeowners on several potential solutions, such as adding other chemicals at the pump station to prevent hydrogen sulfide from forming. They also increased the number of times they use the force main to prevent sewage from staying in place for too long.
However, the chemical additive they use is “not inexpensive,” according to Gorham.
The ACSA Board agreed to pay $37,000 from its separate capital improvement program on a study explore different options for long-term odor control at the new facility.
O’Connell said there should not be any odors emanating from the new Rivanna Pump Station because it will be a closed system running between the pump station and the Moores Creek facility, which means there are no vents or other outlets through which odors can seep.