By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, April 29, 2010

The three agencies in charge of operating and maintaining the Charlottesville-Albemarle wastewater systems have reached agreement on a master plan to upgrade local sewer infrastructure. One goal is to reduce the level of raw sewage reaching local rivers.


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Since November 2008,

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

engineers have been negotiating with the city of

Charlottesville

and the

Albemarle County Service Authority

on the details of how stormwater runoff will be prevented from entering the sewer system.

In the middle of March, for example, nearly 10 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into the local watershed, according to RWSA Executive Director

Thomas L. Frederick Jr.

During heavy flooding, stormwater invades the sewer system and overwhelms the

Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

.

“We’ve got to provide additional capacity,” Frederick said. “The operators did everything they could.”

Frederick hailed the agreement as a “positive” outcome for the environment, but warned that implementation would be costly.

“The plan will require significant monetary investment to be implemented,” Frederick said.

Under the agreement, the three agencies will work collectively to reduce by 25 percent the amount of “wet weather inflow” that infiltrates the wastewater system by 2020. Full details will be revealed later this year as consultant

Greeley and Hansen

completes its report.

With the agreement in place, RWSA engineers now know how much additional capacity they need to plan for when upgrading the

Rivanna Pump Station

, the

Moores Creek Pump Station

, the

Schenks Branch Interceptor

and the

Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

.






Work continues at the Moores Creek facility. Here a new aeration basin is being built. (Source: RWSA)

Contractor

Adams and Robinson

is currently working on a $40.3 million upgrade of Moores Creek. This work is primarily being done to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous released into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The RWSA board voted to allow Frederick to spend $462,000 to begin design work on expanded treatment capacity, in addition to what is being built as part of current construction. Currently, the plant is only able to handle as much as 18 million gallons per day during storm events.

The current construction plans are designed to enhance wet-weather capacity to 37.5 MGD. If the board votes later this year to proceed with construction, an additional $6.9 million investment will raise that number to 45 MGD. Part of this goal will be reached by building larger storage ponds.




Download report on proposed additions to Moores Creek construction work

Frederick also told the RWSA board that the General Assembly did not appropriate any money for the Water Quality Improvement Fund during the 2010 session. That means that a $21.6 million grant committed to the RWSA to pay for the work may actually end up closer to $16.4 million.




Download DEQ letter explaining cuts in WQIF funding

Frederick said despite the lack of funding, he did not think the RWSA would change its proposed rates for FY2011.

The agreement will have more of an effect on the RWSA’s capital projects than those in the city and county, but the director of Charlottesville’s utilities said the negotiations bode well for the community.

“We have planned out our sewer system for the future,” said

Lauren Hildebrand

, the city’s director of utilities. She said that while her five-year capital improvement plan will not change as a result of the sewer study, the new plan will allow her to focus her crews on the task of relining old sewer pipes and sealing manholes to prevent infiltration.

Hildebrand said the city’s highest priority is to work on neighborhoods in the Schenks Branch basin. The highest priority in the county is to work on patching up sewer lines in the Crozet area.


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