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July 07, 2008

Water pipelines may follow routes of old and new roadway proposals; New sewer pump station also in the works

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20080702-BoS The two men in charge of the authorities that deliver water and sewer services to the urbanized section of Albemarle County gave a brief update to the Board of Supervisors on July 2, 2008. Gary Fern, the Executive Director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, began his presentation by wishing the Board a happy New Year – a happy new Fiscal Year, that is.

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Fern told the Board one of the new initiatives this year is that ACSA customers will be able to pay online. Another is that the ACSA Board and staff will be holding a strategic planning session to map out the future goals of the Authority.

Fern also discussed the ACSA’s Capital Improvement Program. The main project to be built is the North Fork Pump Station, which Fern said would eventually allow the Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant to be retired.  Preliminary engineering for the North Fork facility, which is expected to be located in the North Pointe development, is scheduled to be completed in September, after which a cost estimate can be made.  “It’s a pretty good size project,” Fern said. “It’s one of the largest [projects] the ACSA has ever undertaken.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) asked if ratepayers would be the sole funders of the multi-million dollar facility. Fern said he has been meeting with developers looking to build in the County’s northern growth area, a process that will continue as the design  of the plant proceeds.  The ACSA has previously said that participants will include the University of Virginia, the Rivanna Station Military Base, and the North Pointe developers.

“We’re now starting to meet with them individually as we learn what their needs are going to be over the next 20 to 40 years,” Fern said. He added that developers will be expected to make contributions above and beyond connection fees, but that the details have not been worked out.  Rooker asked if the need for the station is due to future growth, but Fern responded that the pressing need is to retire Camelot. The ACSA is spending $385,000 in its CIP for this new Fiscal Year to make temporary repairs to Camelot to extend its service life. Fern says Camelot is currently processing 120,000 gallons of wastewater a day.

Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) asked what kind of minutes were being produced by the ACSA for its Board meetings. Fern said at the moment the Authority is producing something in between summary and near-verbatim minutes.  Mallek encouraged the ACSA to use as detailed minutes as possible, given the millions of dollars being spent in the CIP.

Tom Frederick, Executive Director of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, began his  report by thanking everyone who has written to him to point out that the RWSA seems to be incredibly busy.  “I appreciate hearing that because from the inside perspective and from the perspective of our employees, we’re really covering a lot of ground right now as an organization,” Frederick said.

Frederick took the same approach as Fern and highlighted several projects that are being initiated under the RWSA’s CIP. First, detailed engineering plans for the new Meadowcreek sewer interceptor replacement  project will be ready within 30 days.  They will then be reviewed by the Department of Environmental Quality, a process Frederick said would likely take up to two months. The right of way process has begun,  and if completed, Frederick said construction on the new interceptor could begin before the end of the calendar year.  Permits have been granted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The RWSA is also spending a lot of resources on the rehabilitation of sewer infrastructure, a maintenance item Frederick said the community has neglected to do for many years. He added that the cooperation between the RWSA, the ACSA and the City of Charlottesville has far exceeded his expectations.  The RWSA’s efforts are concentrated on the Schenk’s Branch interceptor, which is the oldest in the system.
Another major capital project is the upgrade of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant to eliminate nutrients such as nitrogen from the water released into the Rivanna River. Frederick told the Board the project cost estimate is approaching “the upper $40 million range” due to the addition of components to control odors at the facility.

“It’s all related to efforts to continue the enhancement of our rivers in Virginia, especially in the estuary areas where nutrients tend to be of greater concern,” Frederick said.

Frederick shared one idea that has not previously received much public attention.  The RWSA is hoping to connect a new pipe from the North Fork and South Fork Water Treatment plants,  in part because VDOT has asked the RWSA to develop plans to relocate an existing water pipe out from underneath US 29.   The connection would also ensure the northern urban area had redundant sources for treated water.  If an accident or emergency shut down the North Fork facility today, there is no backup water source.

Frederick told the Board the most economical way to build the new connection would be along the right of way that would theoretically extend Berkmar Drive over the Rivanna River up to Hollymead Town Center.  Otherwise, new right of way will have to be acquired parallel to US 29, an alignment that could be difficult given that the topography of the land does not necessarily match the topography of the highway.

“There are so many questions related to that that I asked our staff to stop and let us have some discussion through County staff and others about whether the Berkmar project is going to go through in the near term,” Frederick said.  He added that he needs to know soon what the ultimate plans are for Berkmar. The work could proceed before the bridge is built, according to Frederick, as long as plans were coordinated with VDOT to make sure the two alignments were made at the same grade.

Expansion of the North Fork Water Treatment Plant is not an option because it takes water from the North Fork Rivanna River as opposed to a reservoir, thus creating the potential to more directly impact stream flows.  Frederick said the plant does not need any major repair work, and there is additional capacity to serve the northern urban area – for now.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), a proponent of the Berkmar Drive Bridge, said VDOT officials told him earlier this week that one obstacle to getting the project started is the expense of beginning the preliminary engineering. He asked Frederick if there were any ways of bringing down VDOT’s cost by undertaking that work as a joint effort. Frederick said if there was a green light to proceed, the RWSA would begin by doing preliminary engineering to determine if rock would need to be blasted.

“We certainly would go out of our way to be supportive of working alongside a roadway engineer who is asking and answering the same questions with respect to a roadway,” Frederick said.
Slutzky said he would like to schedule a meeting with VDOT Bridge Engineer David Pierce and Frederick to begin the conversation. Frederick agreed, and estimated the RWSA could complete the preliminary engineering process in three months.

Rooker switched gears and asked Frederick for a cost estimate on the new pipeline to connect the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir with the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.  Frederick said the $55.9 million estimate first provided in 2006 still stands, a figure that assumes parts of the pipeline can be built along the right of way obtained by VDOT to build the Western Bypass, a road project that is on indefinite hold.  Rooker wanted to know if the plan to utilize the right of way was still valid.

“There are people who have thrown out statements that VDOT cannot legally allow the right of way to be used for this kind of thing,” Rooker said. “It would seem to me to be wise to, as soon as legally possible, to initiate discussions with the right people at VDOT about our use of that right of way. If they don’t build the bypass… they may be selling that right of way back, so it would be wise to get the easements in place before that might occur.”

County Executive Bob Tucker said VDOT officials have told him that the right of way “is secure” until 2012. Slutzky asked if any utility easements would survive any future sale of that land back to the original owners. Frederick did not know, but Rooker said that was exactly the kind of question he would want to have answered.

Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler

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