By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, April 7, 2011

A plan to replace a sewage pumping station in Charlottesville’s Woolen Mills neighborhood with a new facility remains alive, despite requests from residents to table the idea.

Source: Daily Progress

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday directed its representative on the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority to vote for further study of the option, as well as another option that would move the station across the Rivanna River to land in the county.

Last month, the Charlottesville City Council asked the RWSA to remove the idea from further consideration , but the county did not agree .

“I don’t think we can just take everything off the table,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd . If the RWSA board agrees at its meeting later this month, the agency will spend $219,000 on preliminary engineering for both designs. Both would increase the capacity of the plant to handle as much as 53 million gallons of sewage a day.

“As much as I hate to spend money, I think this will be money well spent to make the right decision here,” Boyd said.

The Rivanna Pump Station is being replaced or upgraded as part of a plan to comply with a consent decree between the RWSA, the Albemarle County Service Authority , the city of Charlottesville and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The order mandates that the community reduce the amount of raw sewage allowed to flow into the Rivanna River and other area streams. Boyd said the decree gives the community until the end of the year to have a final design in place.

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Members of the Woolen Mills neighborhood appealed to supervisors to only consider an option that would build a new station across the river.

City resident Chris Hays said when the station was built in 1981, neighbors were promised there would be no smells, no odors and it would not be visible.

“There were indeed quite a lot of smells and a lot of sounds,” Hayes said.

“What’s happened over the last 30 years is that the pump station has grown and grown,” said Woolen Mills resident Fran Lawrence. He added that expanding the station in place would interfere with one of the only community amenites that directly interfaces with the Rivanna River – the city’s Riverview Park .

Victoria Dunham

Victoria Dunham , president of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association , said the building at the site of the existing station would further decrease the quality of life.

“There is a very good reason why you’re not going to find a facility of this size in a flood plain, in a park, in a residential neighborhood, anywhere in the United States,” Dunham said. “Do you all really want to be the first to do that?”

However, county resident Kirk Bowers, who sits on the Pantops Community Advisory Council , said he felt the county needed to preserve the land for trails and future expansion of the Pantops Shopping Center.

“If you put a pump station there, we won’t be able to use [the land],” Bowers said. “That would be a big sacrifice and we don’t want it.”

Thomas L. Frederick, executive director of the RWSA, said the station needs to have a large capacity in order to handle storms and other wet-weather events.

“There will not be a steady consistent pumping of 53 million gallons a day,” Frederick said. “If you want to establish a goal to keep the sewage out of the environment, you have to be able to handle the peaks.”

RWSA Executive Director Thomas Frederick

Frederick added that the new pump station would be part of a community strategy to comply with the consent decree, including the ongoing replacement of the Meadowcreek sewer interceptor.

Building the new facility at its existing location has a preliminary cost estimate of $25 million, whereas building a new pump station in the county would cost around $34 million.

Frederick said no details have been worked out for any of the options, which he said are just concepts at this point and not full alternatives. Further study likely would yield more accurate estimates.

Boyd said the additional $9 million required to build the pump station in a new location is not an insignificant amount.

“We can’t ignore our financial responsibility,” he said.

The RWSA board will consider the matter further at its meeting later this month.