Tom Frederick points out how the South Fork Pipeline fits in to the urban water system of the future

At the January meeting of the

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority


Executive Director Tom Frederick presented a $149.8 million capital improvement plan

. The following week, he addressed the

Rivanna Conservation Society

at its Brown Bag Lunch to explain that the community’s investment will go towards capacity increases and to pay for upgrades to help reduce the environmental impact of the area’s urban water and sewer system.

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The largest water projects help boost capacity, but are also being planned to help improve the flow of the existing system. Frederick said the expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir is necessary in order to replace a pair of dams that are at the end of their operating life. There are concerns the dam could fail if the area were to receive more than 42 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.  During hurricane Camille in 1969, Nelson County received 27 inches in a 3-5 hour period.  While such an event would be classified as a 500-year storm, those fears were enough to convince the state to mandate RWSA to repair the dams by 2012. Frederick said the new dam, which will raise the pool 45 feet higher, will help provide enough storage capacity to satisfy the community’s urban water supply needs for 50 years. A draft permit is currently pending, and the State Water Control Board may consider it at its March meeting.

Frederick said the water system needs upgrades to provide redundancy and make more efficient use of existing water treatment facilities. He said there is currently no way to move water between the urban system’s northern and southern regions without first going through pipes owned and operated by the City of Charlottesville. Other connections, such as a 1927 cast-iron water pipe from Sugar Hollow Reservoir to Ragged Mountain, are built with materials that are prone to breaking.

“Today they make pipe they call ductline which is much more versatile, handles temperature changes better, and doesn’t leak nearly as often.” A replacement for a pipeline along Route 29 is also crucial to ensuring water service in the Places29 area of the County.

When the Observatory Water Treatment Plant is renovated, Frederick said it will feature membrane filtration technology to receive impurities from the raw water. “[Membrane filtration] can take a lot of things out of water that conventional technology cannot,” he said. As the Environmental Protection Agency turns its attention to chemicals in personal care products, Frederick said the RWSA will be prepared to meet the next generation of water quality standards. “There’s a lot of research that EPA has started now around the idea that some of these chemicals can change hormonal properties in fish, and the concern is if that’s happening, it can harm the environment in some irreparable ways.”

Frederick said the cost of the improvements and upgrades is steep because the community neglected upgrades for many years. “If we’re going to have a plan to make our utility services as reliable as we possibly can, make it comply with all the laws, make it respect the environment, and do all of those things we say are important, we’re all going to end up paying more for our water and wastewater services,” he said.

Another goal of the 29 pipeline is to increase capacity in the Places29 area without taking more water from the North Fork of the Rivanna River. Currently about two million gallons a day is drawn from the river.

On the sewer side, many lines have been exposed by the erosion along the stream banks. Frederick pointed to one location of the sewer interceptor along Moores Creek, which has shifted by more than a hundred feet since line was installed in the sixties. Since then, both the County and City have initiated regulations to prevent storm water runoff, and the RWSA has a preference to build new sewer lines along the edge of the flood plain.

The largest capital project for wastewater is the state-mandated upgrades to the Moores Creek Wastewater treatment plant. The plant is being upgraded to reduce the amount of pollutants that are released into the watershed.

“What humanity has learned as our population has grown and we’ve continued to be stressed with the challenges of living in harmony with our environment is that nitrogen and phosphorous in too much concentration in streams can have an adverse effect by generating too much algal blooms,” Frederick said.

The plant currently has a capacity of 15 million gallons per day, but Frederick said within the next ten to fifteen years, RWSA will need to design an expansion to raise capacity to 25.

The RWSA will consider its CIP for FY2008 through 2013 at its meeting on February 25.

Sean Tubbs


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