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May 17, 2011

Council repeats preference for county option for sewer pump

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DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Charlottesville City Council has directed its representatives on the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to vote against any plan that would build a new sewer pump station in the city’s Woolen Mills neighborhood.

20110516-kids-map
A Woolen Mills shows Council a poster drawn by her son asking that the pump station not be belt in his neighborhood

Residents of the Woolen Mills neighborhood pleaded Monday with Council not to approve any further study of any option that would build a new sewer pump station in their neighborhood.

“That is one of the most historic areas in the entire city and it is a beautiful gem,” said Victoria Dunham of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association.

The Rivanna pump station, which was originally built in 1981, is being replaced in order to accommodate a peak wet weather flow of 53 million gallons a day. 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.

Download Download RWSA Consent Order

The RWSA board voted 4-1 in April to pay Hazen & Sawyer $122,000 to study a site located near the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment plant on property owned by the RWSA. Councilor David Brown voted for the alternative, which is known as option C and has a preliminary cost estimate of $37 million.

However, public works director Judy Mueller and city manager Maurice Jones abstained because they said they did not have direction on that option from council.

The Council was asked Monday if they could support the action. In March, Council indicated its preference for option D, which would build the station across the Rivanna River near State Farm’s regional headquarters in Albemarle County. That option has a preliminary estimate of $34 million.

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Neighborhood residents developed this interpretation depicting how option C would impact their neighborhood. (Click to enlarge)

While the study of option C has not yet begun, neighborhood residents have conducted one of their own. By their estimates, more than 2 acres of trees along a 100-foot wide easement by the river will have to be removed in order to accommodate the sewer line.

The pipes must be placed at a depth of 30 feet, according to RWSA executive director Thomas L Frederick Jr.

Neighborhood resident Roger Voisenet said several other historic homes, including his, will be ruined by the construction.

“I don’t know if you could imagine what it would be like to have a 30 foot chasm in your back yard,” Voisinet said in an interview before the meeting. He said if construction crews encounter rock, they might have to use dynamite which he said would destroy the old brick structures.

Voisinetsaid he thinks the RWSA should consider other alternatives, including the possibility of upgrading the pipeline directly along the riverbank. He said that would also have the advantage of shoring up the riverbank.

Another option suggested by Woolen Mill residents would be a modification of option C that would extend the gravity-sewer line by boring a hole under the right of way. Frederick said this alternative, which has been called option E, would involve a 2,000 foot long tunnel that at one point would be 90 feet below ground.

“Right now it’s unknown what type of geologic features would be encountered at that depth,” Frederick said. He added that Hazen & Sawyer had said an engineering study for that alternative would be at least three times as expensive of the study of option C.

Before the meeting, Mayor Dave Norris said he would vote against option C.

“What we’re looking at is trying to find the lesser of evils,” Norris said. He added there is no ideal option, but he would vote for option D.

“It has the least impact on residential areas and has lower environmental impact,” Norris said.

Representatives from State Farm were on hand at the April meeting of the RWSA to argue against option D because it would affect their plans to expand parking.

“I certainly feel that the impact on a potential parking lot should not take an option off the table,” Norris said. “But [somehow] vocal and heartfelt opposition from directly-impacted neighbors doesn’t take an option off the table?”

But members of the public were adamant that option C as well as another plan to replace the existing station be discarded.

“We want them off the table, and we want them off the table permanently,” Dunham said. 

Norris called for further negotiations with State Farm to further advance option D before committing to Option E.

However, City Councilors Holly Edwards and Satyendra Huja both agreed they could support paying more now to explore option E.

“This is not a third world country,” Edwards said. “There is no reason we can’t come up with a solution that will be best for our community.”

Brown said he had supported option C at the RWSA because he thought it would be less intrusive than another proposal to replace the existing station in place.

“What I’ve learned since then is that it’s not that simple,” Brown said.  “The impact on the neighborhood could be overwhelming.”

A motion to eliminate option C passed 4-0. Councilor Kristin Szakos was not present.

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