Credit: Credit: Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

The Charlottesville City Council wants to use money set aside to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to increase odor controls at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“I would encourage everybody who doesn’t understand the real urgency of this issue to spend one night in Belmont,” said Councilor Dave Norris. “The stench is nauseating.”

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s capital improvement program includes $3.5 million intended to serve as the public’s share for a project to dredge a portion of the reservoir. The waterway has been filling with sediment since it was built in 1966.

The RWSA had asked for proposals from firms to dredge the reservoir under a public-private partnership.

Orion Marine, the only firm to submit a qualified proposal, concluded in August that it would not proceed because it could not reach an agreement with a nearby landowner to permanently store the dredged material.

“We’ve run into a dead end on the process we were pursuing,” said Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the RWSA. He briefed the council earlier this week on water and sewer issues.

“I think our board is going to need to decide where we want to go,” he added.

Councilor Dede Smith said she did not feel ratepayers should pay to dredge the South Fork because the community’s water supply plan does not anticipate using the reservoir for significant amounts of water storage.

“The pressure to do it comes from recreational users,” Smith said.

Frederick said other groups could dredge to provide for recreational and aesthetic benefits as long as they can demonstrate they can do so without affecting water quality.

Norris said odor from the Moores Creek plant is a more pressing issue. Some measures to control odor were put in place when the plant was upgraded recently, but they fell short of the full recommendations offered by the firm Hazen & Sawyer in 2008.

“There’s an estimate from an engineering firm that it would cost $33 million, in 2007 dollars, to assure the removal of 99 percent of the odor,” Frederick said. “Our commitment at this time is less than $33 million.”

“Do you think your board understands the depth of the problem?” asked Norris. “It’s a major quality-of-life issue for people in the southeast part of Charlottesville.”

Norris suggested using the money for dredging to help increase odor controls. The rest of the council agreed, and Councilor Kathy Galvin said she would raise the issue at the next meeting of the RWSA board of directors.

“I know Mr. Frederick is doing what he can but he’s limited by the resources being made available to him,” Norris said.

Frederick said the timing for the conversation is perfect as his staff is putting together a new capital improvement program. He said much of the odor is due to bacteria, but bacteria are a necessary part of removing nutrients from sewage.

“The way wastewater plants deal with the odor issue is to provide control mechanisms and they include covering tanks with structures … and you have to scrub the air underneath the cover which involves chemicals and electricity,” Frederick said.

Rivanna Pump Station

Frederick also announced that mediators have been hired to help the city and Albemarle County reach a cost-share agreement for the Rivanna Pump Station, a sewer project that has moved forward despite the localities being unable to agree on a cost allocation.

The facility is being moved from its current location to a site at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant after the RWSA board split on a 4-3 vote. County members of the RWSA board voted against this option because it was more expensive than rebuilding the station at its current location next to Riverview Park.

A meeting will be held with the MacCammon Group on Sept. 27.

“I do hope we can find a way that doesn’t cost us a lot of money to implement and will allow us to move forward,” Frederick said. “We have to push to move forward with construction of the pump station with or without a cost-share agreement because we are under a consent order from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.”