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March 25, 2008

RWSA board votes to approve wastewater odor control measures

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Rwsaodorcontrol
New facilities to help control odors at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant are marked in purple (Source: Hazen & Sawyer)

At its March 24, 2008 meeting, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) Board of Directors voted to undertake a series of steps to address community concerns about harsh odors generated at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The RWSA Board approved a multi-step plan that follows some of the odor control recommendations presented in January by the firm Hazen and Sawyer.  The vote as 4-0 with Board Chair Michael Gaffney absent from the meeting.

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The adopted odor control plant will include three steps:

  • Design and build a new facility next to the accept septage from private haulers at a cost of nearly $3 million with an estimated completion by August 2009
  • Modify the ongoing Nutrient Removal Improvement project to add features that will allow for cleansing of holding ponds and equalization basins, at an estimated cost of $2.175 million. These improvements will be made concurrently with the upgrade
  • Evaluate effectiveness of odor control programs prior to proceeding with Phase II, possibly with a mail-in survey

This plan was crafted by an “informal work group” consisting of staff from the City’s utilities department, RWSA and Albemarle County Service Authority staff, with input from the Woolen Mills neighborhood. One of the participants, Bill Emory, addressed the Board and cited the spirit of an executive order signed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton that mandated the federal government provide “environmental justice” to minority neighborhoods.

20080324emory
Woolen Mills Resident Bill Emory addresses the RWSA Board

“No group of people should bear a disproportionate share of negative consequences resulting from municipal operations,” Emory said. “I would submit to you that people who live on Franklin Street within 600 feet of the holding ponds have been subjected to a disproportionate share of negative consequences.”

Emory acknowledged that ratepayers would bear the brunt of the cost of any upgrades, but that his neighbors have been “suffering silently for a long time.”

Gary Fern of the Albemarle County Service Authority altered the plan to specify that the RWSA will solicit a "Request for Qualifications" from other firms for the first phase of the project. Robert Wischer, RWSA’s Director of Water and Wastewater, had recommended the work be performed by Hazen & Sawyer, the firm that is currently designing the Moores Creek upgrade. Wischer said additional bids could add a few months to the project’s timeline.

Albemarle County will cover the cost of the new septage receiving station, though County Executive Bob Tucker said the locality will fund the project in its Capital Improvement Program for FY2010. If the County Board of Supervisors declines, the project will ultimately be paid for through higher fees for septage disposal.

In other news, the Board also saw an updated version of the RWSA’s Draft CIP for FY2008  through FY2013.  Since the CIP was first introduced in January, estimates for three projects have risen.

  • The Moores Creek plant upgrade is now estimated to cost $37 million
  • Odor control projects now budgeted at $5 million
  • Unanticipated capacity upgrades for Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant to cost $385K (and covered by the Albemarle County Service Authority)

The Board will vote on the authority’s operating and capital improvement budget at its May meeting.
Frederick also told the Board that the General Assembly cut $15 million from the state’s Water Quality Improvement Fund. The fund will reimburse localities who are upgrading their wastewater treatment facilities to met Department of Environmental Quality guidelines, and Frederick said he is concerned the money may not be there when it comes time for the RWSA to pay for the Moores Creek upgrades.

Sean Tubbs

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