By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Board of Directors learned Tuesday that a compromise plan to replace the Rivanna pump station by drilling a 2,000-foot tunnel is technically possible.

“It is in fact feasible and there are no fatal flaws with it,” said Janice Carroll, a project manager with the engineering firm Hazen & Sawyer.

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However, Carroll said the option would likely be the most expensive of three choices the firm has been studying for the RWSA.

Janice Carroll of Hazen & Sawyer

The RWSA is upgrading the capacity of the station to handle up to 53 million gallons of wastewater a day to prevent raw sewage from flooding into Moores Creek and the Rivanna River.

The RWSA board is required by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to make a decision on which option will be used by Dec. 31.

The compromise, known as Option E, emerged earlier this year after Charlottesville and Albemarle County members of the board were each concerned about other options to replace the station.

City officials do not want to move forward with an option that would replace the station at its existing location near Riverview Park because of opposition from the Woolen Mills neighborhood. This option has an initial cost estimate of around $25 million.

Likewise, Albemarle officials have said they are concerned about an option to build the station across the river because State Farm Insurance, a major employer, would be impacted. This scenario has an initial cost estimate of $37 million.

Community discussion in the spring led to consideration of an option that would extend the existing gravity sewer onto the grounds of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“That option was of particular interest because it would place the pump station on the plant site,” Carroll said.

In May, the RWSA directed Hazen & Sawyer to conduct geotechnical surveys for all three options in order to refine cost estimates.

Enough work has been done on option E for Carroll to put a cost range between $40 million and $43 million. However, preliminary engineering for the other options will not be complete until the end of September.

The RWSA will hold a community meeting in early October to present all three options to the public. One remaining question is how much each community will contribute towards the project.

“We have got to resolve that issue and can’t keep it lingering,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd.

Casey Burch of HDR

The RWSA board was also briefed on a “market sounding study” conducted by HDR Engineering in advance of a request for proposals to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

In June, the RWSA board approved the spending of up to $3.5 million to put toward a request for proposals for dredging, which would be conducted under the state’s Public-Private Education Facilities Infrastructure Act (PPEA). This would grant bidders more flexibility to suggest creative proposals to dredge the reservoir.

“We reached out to dredging contractors that HDR knows by reputation,” said Carey Burch, project manager with HDR. “We spoke with a total of 11 contractors and explained the process to them … Six of the contractors were willing to [participate].”

Burch said none of the firms have ever bid for a dredging project under the PPEA rules before. He added most of the contractors were concerned about the level of risk they would assume under the project.

“Acquiring land is one of the biggest areas of risk in any dredging project,” Burch said. “Acquiring land for staging, for materials dewatering, for processing. [This] often drives how you dredge a certain body of water.”

Other risks include whether a market would be in place to purchase the materials.

“If the materials market is going to fluctuate over time, it would be difficult to project out several years to figure out what their rate of return is going to be,” Burch said.

Burch asked if the RWSA would consider purchasing some of the property identified in previous dredging studies in advance in order to assume some of the risk and cost.

Boyd said a feasibility study previously conducted by HDR identified specific parcels of land that could be used and that that should be enough information for any potential bidders.

“I wouldn’t be in favor of purchasing the land first because it would take the creativity out of the project,” Boyd said.

The RWSA board agreed not to further discuss the matter until the city and county can agree on a cost-allocation agreement for how much each locality would contribute to the $3.5 million set aside for the project.

Burch predicted the RWSA would receive between three and five proposals based on the study.

None of the city’s three voting members were present at the meeting. City Councilor Holly Edwards serves as an alternate but is not allowed to vote.


    01:00 – Meeting called to order by RWSA Chair Mike Gaffney

    03:30 – Executive Director’s report from Tom Frederick

    08:30 – Public comment from Rebecca Quinn of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

    12:45 – Public comment from John Martin

    16:00 – Public comment from Liz Palmer of the Albemarle County Service Authority

    17:30 – Responses to matters from the public

    21:30 – Discussion of extension of waiver for UVA rowing to use South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

    27:30 – Discussion of changes to the RWSA’s financial policy

    31:45 – Discussion of “market sounding report” from HDR Engineering

    1:07:00 – Discussion of Rivanna Pump Station


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