The RWSA board voted 4-1 Tuesday to spend $122,000 to evaluate a site on the agency’s property in Albemarle County downstream from the existing Rivanna pump station, which is in the Woolen Mills neighborhood and next to the city’s
The move likely stops further consideration of a plan to rebuild the station in place, a concept that does not have the support of the city.
“It is overwhelming to the neighborhood and it is overwhelming to the adjacent park,” said City Councilor
, who sits on the RWSA board.
The plant is being replaced in order to accommodate a peak wet weather flow of 53 million gallons. The current pump station can only handle 25 million gallons, leading to sewage overflows following heavy storms.
A consent order from the Department of Environmental Quality requires the RWSA to select an alternative by the end of the year as part of a comprehensive plan to stop raw sewage from being released into state waterways.
Four options have been presented to the community.
The downstream site, referred to as Option C, would move the station onto property owned by the RWSA and has a preliminary cost estimate of $37 million.
Option A would replace the existing station in place and is estimated to cost $25 million.
Option D would build the station across the river on parcels in Albemarle County — some of the land is owned by State Farm Insurance and some is owned by the county — and is estimated to cost $34 million.
At the March meeting of the RWSA board, some Woolen Mills residents argued that building the station across the river would not affect anyone. A representative from
was on hand Tuesday to dispute that claim.
“We feel Option D could hurt the economy and reduce the employment opportunities at State Farm,” John Sykes said.
Sykes said the firm is planning to eventually put a parking lot to accommodate future employees in the area near where the pump station would be located.
“We also feel that putting a sewage pumping station next to a major employer does send a disturbing signal about how receptive the community is to the [role] companies like State Farm play,” Sykes added.
Woolen Mills resident Fran Lawrence agreed with Sykes that the pump station could be a noxious neighbor, and asked for further consideration of Option C even if some residents would be temporarily inconvenienced by construction.
“Once you dig and put it in the ground, and the pumping station is on the RWSA’s property, then it’s completely out of the neighborhood and it’s completely [away from] State Farm,” Lawrence said.
The arguments were enough to sway Albemarle Supervisor
Kenneth C. Boyd’s
vote, who had previously supported further examination of both Options A and D.
“I have listened to both State Farm and I’ve listened to the people from Woolen Mills,” Boyd said. “Given public input and given [further] thought, I wonder if we ought to maybe study Option C as the preferred option.”
The executive director of the
Albemarle County Service Authority
, voted against the motion because his board had directed him to pursue an option that would build the new facility at the existing site.
“Taking what appears up front to be the most cost-effective solution off the table just seems like we’re heading ourselves into the most expensive cost,” O’Connell said.
, whose vote is contingent on council consensus, said he could not support Option C without knowing where the full council stood on the issue.
The City Council had expressed a preference for the site across the river.
“I don’t work for council,” Brown quipped. He said he wanted to vote for Option C given the deadline imposed by the DEQ to move the project forward.
Jones and the city’s public works director, Judy Mueller, abstained from the vote.
“I appreciate that we’re having this discussion,” Jones said. “It’s great that the county and city are talking about a compromise.”