By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, March 18, 2011

The

Albemarle County Service Authority

wants planning for an expanded sewer pump station to include a site near its current location in

Woolen Mills

, despite the Charlottesville City Council’s

recent request to eliminate that location from further study

. Relocating the pump station could cost $9 million more than building at the existing site.



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Residents of the Woolen Mills neighborhood are opposed to an expansion at the site near

Riverview Park

and instead want a new pump station to be built across the Rivanna River at a location in Albemarle County. The station collects raw sewage from the city, county and University of Virginia and pumps it uphill to the nearby

Moores Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant

.

“I know there have been issues from the neighborhood,” said ACSA Executive Director

Gary O’Connell

at a meeting on Thursday. “But we have an existing station that, under current standards, we should be able to expand and meet community concerns.”

At its meeting on March 7, the City Council reached consensus to direct its representatives on the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority board to advocate for a new location outside the city neighborhood. The location in Albemarle is near land parcels owned by the county and State Farm Insurance, though an exact location has not been specified.

Two other concepts are also under consideration for the upgrade, which officials say is being planned to increase the capacity of the sewer system to handle high volumes of stormwater.






Gary O’Connell at the March 17, 2011 meeting of the Albemarle County Service Authority


“The improvements are to reduce infiltration and inflow, particularly to handle wet-weather events,” O’Connell said. “It increases the dry-weather [capacity] from 8 to 12 [million gallons a day], and the wet weather from 25 mgd to 53 mgd.”

O’Connell, a former Charlottesville city manager, said he wanted the chance to demonstrate to Woolen Mills residents that upgrading the existing pump station could be done without imposing undue burdens on their neighborhood.

“[We want] at least to not take anything off the table until we get more information and can go through it in more depth,” he said. “There are such huge financial consequences of making a decision that all the ratepayers would have to pay. It seems to me a little premature to pull one off the table.”

Upgrading the station in place would cost around $25 million, whereas building across the river would cost around $34 million.

Three out of the four ACSA board members present at the meeting verbally agreed with O’Connell.






ACSA Board Member Jim Colbaugh

“I can’t imagine today that we would build a pump station that wasn’t inside of a building that would be sound proof and odor proof,”

Jim Colbaugh

said. “I would like the RWSA board to move forward with a study of the existing site.”


Liz Palmer

suggested getting Woolen Mills residents involved with the architectural design for the new structure.

“I think we can design a really attractive building for a lot less money than moving it across the river,” Palmer said.

“If the city wants to pay for the difference… then that’s in their hands,” Palmer said. “But if they expect us to pay for that then we really have to keep the other option on the table.”

However, Victoria Dunham of the

Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association

is adamant that the existing site is not an option.

“It’s not an expansion, it’s an enormous pump station, double in size, two to three stories tall within thirty feet of houses,” Dunham said in an interview. “The neighborhood was here first, and the house it would go next to came before the pump station by a hundred years.”

She said the additional $9 million in costs was justifiable to satisfy neighborhood concerns and that the Albemarle County location would not affect any residences.

“When you take that money and spread it out over ratepayers over many years, it doesn’t amount to much,” Dunham said. “Across the river it would be built out of a flood plain.”

The issue will be before the RWSA Board at their meeting on Tuesday. The RWSA is also expected to evaluate a hybrid concept that may keep the existing pump station in service and build additional pumping capacity across the river.

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